Pasta alla Tavola: The Most Fun You Can Have on St. Joseph’s Day

by | Mar 14, 2013 | Cooking, Lent, Lent, Liturgical Living, March, Parenting, Parties, Saints, Seasonal | 13 comments

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is coming up soon (March 19th), so I thought I’d share how we celebrate this very welcome feast in the middle of Lent.

When I was in high school, one of my best friends was from an Italian family.  Mrs. Vitale is an uh-mazing cook (if you’re ever in La Jolla, check out her restaurant, I’m sure the wait staff is much better now than when it was me).  She was also the consummate hostess, and I enjoyed many a delicious dinner over at their house.  But the best, by FAR, was Pasta un Gobbola Tabola.  I think that’s what they called it.  It’s what *I* have always called it anyway.  I honestly don’t know if it’s a real thing or if they made it up.

Update, thanks to a reader heads up, I can now tell you that it IS a thing, and it’s called Pasta Alla Tavola!

Here’s what happened:  For days ahead of time, they would rub down a GIANT sheet (sometimes many of them) of carefully sanded plywood with olive oil.  They would set it/them on sawhorses in the front yard.  Then entire high school sports teams, or our whole three-parish youth group would gather hungrily around and Mrs. Vitale would dump pot after pot of pasta with butter and parmesan cheese in the middle of the “tables.”

Then we would all eat it . . . with our hands.  It was the BEST.

Now, not being Italian myself, I haven’t been able to muster the motivation to spend a week sanding and oiling down a piece of plywood.  But I can totally boil noodles, and I have a little plastic table that I’m not averse to giving a good scouring every once in a while.

So here’s what it looks like at my house:

That baby who looks exactly like Frankie is actually Gus.
It’s like a baby version of Groundhog Day around here.

Now, as it turns out, most grownups are totally lame and do NOT want to eat pasta off of a table with me.

So, here’s how I set up the grownup table:

I usually serve melon and prosciutto as an appetizer, so there’s a little protein, and a green salad.

The husband found a St. Joseph-themed wine, so we stockpiled a few bottles.

And St. Joseph’s Day is a solemnity, so dessert is NOT optional.  The celebration would not be complete without St. Joseph’s Day Cream Puffs!  Yum.

In keeping with my Lenten resolution,
I’m going to try making them from scratch this year!

We have also sometimes made cute little papercraft 3D St. Joseph’s Tables (and St. Joseph coloring pages). 

Pasta un Gabbola Tabola: cheap, easy, awesome.  Happy St. Joseph’s Day!


  1. Curt Dose

    I get your two children already named after the previous Popes – John Paul (10) and Robert Benedict (7) – because they were named after the Pope at the time. But how did you and Jim name your youngest son Francis (1) a year before Pope Francis was chosen yesterday? Catholic All Year appears to have an inside line!

  2. Nanacamille

    I have already said that your babies look as similar as the 6 baby pandas born at the SD Zoo and sent you their pictures. Betty broke herself out by starting with dark hair going to red and then to blond but other wise they are pandas.

    My dear friend Woody is a faithful reader of your blog…my age, never married, no children and not Catholic. You have wide appeal.

  3. Nanacamille

    Are you still answering the phone, "If you are calling for the new Pope Francis he is taking a nap right now and will get back to you later….much later." Pretty funny.

  4. Tracy Bua Smith

    Looks like fun and such a memorable tradition! Are you still in touch with Mrs. Vitale ? If so, have you been able to tell her what a positive impact her tradition had on your family? Have a blessed feast day!

    • Kendra

      My mom still runs into her on occasion. I'll have to make sure she knows.

  5. Rosa Patterson

    I think perhaps it might be pasta un gobbo la tavola? It means something like pasta hunchbacked on the table lol.

      • Silvia

        I actually think it may have been Pasta ‘n copp ‘a la tavola, i.e. pasta on top of the table in some southern Italian dialect (Naples region). They also say Pasta cu a pummarola ‘n copp, when you top you pasta with tomato sauce (pummarola)

  6. Ali

    We are going to try this tonight! My kids are SO excited. My daughter told her entire kinder class about it. I googled and can't find any record of this tradition – although a three tiered altar on a table laden with treats and food is traditional – a St. Joseph's table.

    • Ali

      A huge success!!! (& surprisingly less messy than I expected). We mostly stuck to your menu, adding baby zucchini and replacing dessert with gluten free amaretto cookies and pistachio gelato. Thank you for the inspiration! We have a new family tradition.

  7. Beatrice Massucco

    Hi Kendra! I'm from Turin, Italy and I love love love your blog. I only just realized that "pasta un gobbola tabola" is Neapolitan dialect for "pasta on the table", so it actually is a thing! I think it's written "pasta 'n coppa a' tavola". I've never heard of it before, but it looks fun 😉 Ciao!


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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