Memorial of St. Januarius

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If you are an Italian Catholic, you probably know St. Januarius as San Gennaro. He is the patron on the city of Naples, the city where his relics are enshrined. As a fourth century bishop and martyr, St. Januarius’ story is not well known or understood. He is said to have been martyred in the persecutions ordered by the Roman emperor Diocletian.

This is a great dinner to make with children.

His personal story is not well known, but the traditions of devotions to him are colorful and deeply rooted in Italian life. Neapolitans ask for his intercession when Mount Vesuvius looks threatening. His help is also invoked in times of plague.

His memorial is famously kept in New York’s Little Italy. If you are able, go to what is locally known as “the festival of festivals,” and east, eat, eat. If New York is too far for you, keep the day at home. Since Naples is the birthplace of pizza, make a pizza (or several) to share with friends and family. The Neapolitan crust is thin, but not as thin and cracker-like as the Roman dough. This is a great dinner to make with children. Just make sure their hands are clean, then let them work the dough to their hearts’ content!


1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

1 cup cake flour (not self rising)

2 1/2 to 3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Olive oil for the bowl


Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand for 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, 2 1/2 cups of the all purpose flour, and the salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Lightly coat another large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to oil the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft free place and let rise until doubled in bulk; about 1 1/2 hours.

Flatten the dough with your fist. Cut the dough into 2 to 4 pieces and shape the pieces into balls. Dust the tops with flour. Place the balls on a floured surface and cover each with plastic wrap, allowing room for the dough to expand. Let rise 60 to 90 minutes, or until doubled.

Thirty to sixty minutes before baking the pizzas, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles on a rack in the lowest level of the oven. Turn on the oven to the maximum temperature, 500 to 550 degrees F.

Shape and bake pizzas in desired fashion. (Consider making a margherita pizza, as that is a Neapolitan favorite.) Watch the video: