On January 17, Sant'Antonio Abate is celebrated, considered the patron saint of animals and farmers. In many regions of Italy, the anniversary is celebrated with the traditional blessing of animals, as well as with fire rituals and other initiatives.
In Umbria the anniversary is particularly felt, especially in Assisi where every year an episode that took place around the mid-nineteenth century is remembered. At the time, the countryside was hit by an epidemic that didn't even spare the animals. Being Santa Maria degli Angeli an important transit route on the Rome-Florence route, the drivers of the mail carriages together with the inhabitants prayed to the patron saint of animals so that the disease would not kill their horses. When the plague ended, a meal was distributed to the poor as a token of gratitude, known today as the plate of Sant'Antonio Abate.
The dish of Sant'Antonio consists of macaroni, two slices of meat, four sausages, two meatballs, bread, half a liter of wine and two apples. Even today this typical dish is eaten, usually on the Sunday following January 17th.
To pass on the tradition of the celebrations of Sant'Antonio Abate, the Association of Priors of the Plate of S. Antonio Abate was established. One of the tasks of the Priors elected by the association is to bear most of the expenses for the creation of the dish, which is offered on the menus of local restaurants at a symbolic price, to honor the origin of a free offer to the needy.
Below we leave you the recipe to prepare one of the tastiest parts of the dish, or the meatballs of Sant'Antonio Abate.
The ingredients needed for the meatballs are: 500g of minced meat, 2 eggs, 100g of Parmigiano Reggiano, 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 300g of breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
For the sauce: extra virgin olive oil, an onion, 50 g of carrot, a stalk of celery and tomato purée or peeled tomatoes.
To prepare the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a container and mix. When the mass reaches a homogeneous consistency, meatballs are created. Prepare the sauté with the chopped carrot, onion and celery, leaving it to dry for 5 minutes in the oil over high heat. At this point, add the peeled tomatoes or tomato puree and season with salt and pepper. Finally, integrate the sauce with the meatballs and continue cooking, adding a little broth if needed. When the meatballs are well cooked, you can serve them while still hot with macaroni with meat sauce, pork roast beef and sausages.
Typical sweets for Sant'Antonio Abate
If in Umbria there is a dish to celebrate Sant'Antonio, also in the other Italian regions there is no shortage of typical delicacies of the saint's day, including numerous desserts. In Lazio, for example, the biscuits of Sant'Antonio are prepared, while in Emilia Romagna the slippers of Sant'Antonio Abate are famous. In Sardinia the king of the festival is the Su pistiddu (shortcrust pastry filled with sapa - cooked must - or honey), while in Abruzzo they eat the small birds of Sant'Antonio.
Image source: festapiattosantantonio.it