Updated: Feb 4, 2021
About five years ago my husband and I took a pilgrimage to Italy with our parish and were very blessed to have visited a multitude of beautiful places, one of them being Padua. Before that I had not known much about St. Anthony accept to ask him to help me when I lost things, which is often!
and must be found!"
As a way to celebrate St. Anthony of Padua and other Italian saints, I will look up the region that they come from and make something traditional. Out of that research I learned that fresh pesto would be a great way to honor him and so the perfecting of this recipe began. Now we make it all the time, feast day or not, and I hope you like it as much as we do.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 1/2 cups
3 cups fresh basil (OR 2 cups fresh basil and 1 cup fresh spinach)
3 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts OR walnuts (optional)
I made everything in our Cuisinart Smart Stick, one of the best things we registered for. If you have a mini food processor you could make it in that too!
The first time I made this I just used basil, which is the traditional way of making pesto and can also be the expensive way. It was delicious so if you want to go that route then just don't add in the fresh spinach. Measure out 2 cups fresh basil.
On top of the basil, fill the measuring cup with fresh spinach up to 3 cups.
Skin three cloves of garlic, don't worry about mincing them the food processor will do that work for you.
Combine the basil, garlic, and spinach in the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. *If you want the pine nuts or walnuts this would be the time to put those in.
Locked and loaded! Pulse for about 10-15 seconds, if you are using the smart stick you may have to open it and move your ingredients around and then pulse again.
This is what mine looked like, you don't want to make it too fine just yet because you are going to be running the food processor again.
Pour in the 3/4 cup olive oil and turn the processor back on low for about 10-15 seconds.
This smells so amazing, basil...garlic...olive oil goodness!
Measure out 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and sprinkle that in along with the 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp ground pepper.
Mix until all the ingredients are incorporated to a consistency that you prefer and taste test along the way.
You can serve this immediately or put in a container to be refrigerated first. I found that the spinach really filled out the pesto but if you taste the spinach too much you can counteract this by seasoning with dried basil leaves or adding a little more cheese. Refrigerating over night also helped this as well because the ingredients were able to rest and soak in the olive oil.
You can refrigerate this up to three days or freeze it up to a month.
Getting to know St. Anthony!
He was born in 1195, only 13 years after St. Francis, to a faithful family and discerned very early on in his life, age 15, to join the religious order of St. Augustine. However, after witnessing the return of five Franciscan martyrs that died for preaching about Christ in Morocco, he felt called to "put on the habit of your [the Franciscan] order." He was never able to go to Morocco to preach like he wanted to because he became sick, but after healing he ended up in Sicily where his renowned preaching began. So the story goes that after attending a Dominican and Franciscan Ordination, they got together to have dinner and the provincial suggested that one of them give a sermon. Like most people when put on the spot in a group they pulled what my family would call a "nose goes" and St. Anthony was then asked to speak. With lacking education and living as a hermit they didn't expect much, but to everyone's surprise St. Anthony had a gift for speaking about the Gospel.
The Hammer of Heretics & His Incorruptible Tongue
There are stories upon stories about not only the beauty of his words but the fearlessness of his preaching, which gave him the name "Hammer of Heretics". One of my favorite stories is the popular "sermon to the fishes". One day St. Anthony's preaching fell on the deaf ears of heretics so he went down to a river near Padua and preached to the fish. The legend goes that when the fish heard him they all swam to shore and poked their heads out of the water to listen! He wanted so badly for souls to be won over for Christ that he dedicated his life to traveling and presenting the truths of Christianity. At times St. Anthony could have had anywhere up to 30,000 people listening to him speak. He loved the poor and helped to satisfy them in anyway that he could. In fact, when we went to Padua we were able to see his tongue which is incorruptible, you have to go look this up!
What is the story behind St. Anthony holding baby Jesus?
Ever wondered why he is seen holding the baby Jesus? One night while staying as a guest with a benefactor, the owner walked by his room and noticed rays of light pouring out from under the door. As he walked by he saw St. Anthony kneeling in ecstasy and holding a loving, caressing child. The owner knew from the uncharacteristic beauty that the child was Jesus. St. Anthony had such great purity of faith that he is also seen holding a lily. In fact, there is a blessing of lilies on the feast of St. Anthony which you can ask your priest to do for you. One more story, I can't help myself! In France during a time of Church persecution many priests and nuns were being murdered along with convents and churches being destroyed. Many faithful Catholics would go to a surviving church on his feast day to leave lilies and months later the beautiful lilies that adorned that parish were still fresh. Even if you can't get your lilies blessed I would highly recommend placing some on your kitchen table or home altar in honor of St. Anthony. You could also make a traditional St. Anthony bread for this feast day. Pick what will be engaging and meaningful for your family like paying tribute to our trip will be for ours!
The Blessing of Lilies on the Feast of St. Anthony
The priest vests in surplice and white stole, and says:
P:Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All:Who made heaven and earth.
P:The Lord be with you.
All:And with thy spirit.
P:Let us pray. God, the Creator and Preserver of the human race, the Lover of holy purity, the Giver of supernatural grace, and the Dispenser of everlasting salvation; bless + these lilies which we, Thy humble servants, present to Thee today as an act of thanksgiving and in honor of St. Anthony, Thy confessor, and with a request for Thy blessing. Pour out on them, by the saving sign + of the holy cross, Thy dew from on high. Thou in Thy great kindness hast given them to man, and endowed them with a sweet fragrance to lighten the burden of the sick. Therefore, let them be filled with such power that, whether they are used by the sick, or kept in homes or other places, or devoutly carried on one's person, they may serve to drive out evil spirits, safeguard holy chastity, and turn away illness--all this through the prayers of St. Anthony--and finally impart to Thy servants grace and peace; through Christ our Lord.
Then he sprinkles the lilies with holy water, saying:
P:Sprinkle me with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean of sin. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Pray for us, St. Anthony.
All:That we may be worthy of Christ's promise.
P:Let us pray. We beg Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may be helped by the constant and devout intercession of Blessed Anthony, Thy illustrious confessor. May he assist us to be worthy of Thy grace in this life, and to attain everlasting joys in the life to come; through Christ our Lord.
After this the lilies are distributed to the people.