Orecchiette from the Italian orecchia, meaning "ear", and -etta, meaning "small" is a variety of pasta from southern Italy. Its name comes from its shape, which resembles a small ear. The ridged exterior and cup-like interior holds chunky sauces and scoops up small vegetables, making orecchiette perfect to serve with sautés.
Last year, I posted an orecchiette recipe called tuoni e lampo which is a traditional Italian pasta dish with chickpeas. Its name, I thought, linked it well to the story of thunder and lightning associated with St. Scholastica and St. Benedict. But focusing specifically on the ear shape and its name, this pasta would be a fun one to use for a variety of saint feast days associated with ears and hearing.
Today we celebrate the feast day of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests and confessors. St. John Vianney was especially known for his gift as a confessor. He drew thousands of penitents to line up, sometimes days in advance, to experience what many recalled as his ability to see into the deepest recesses of the soul. For this humble priest who was known to hear confessions for up to 16 hours a day, the ear pasta seems a fitting symbol.
Some other saints who have connections associated with hearing and ears are listed here – many coming up soon in September.
- St. Francis de Sales (January 24) - He was known as powerful confessor during the Counter-Reformation. His masterpiece of the spiritual life, Introduction to the Devout Life includes the well-known, “How To Make A General Confession.” He is the patron of the deaf and hearing impaired.
- St. Benedict (July 11) - St. Benedict in his rule begins the Prologue with these words: "Listen carefully, my son, to the master's instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart."
- St. Alphonsus Liguori (August 1) – He is a patron of confessors and wrote much on the sacrament of confession.
- St. John Vianney (August 4) – He was known for hearing confessions up to 16 hours per day and is a patron of confessors.
- St. John Chysostom (September 13) – An early Church Father, he interpreted the epistles of St. Paul. He is often depicted in iconography with St. Paul whispering into his ear. His ear is incorrupt.
- St. Cornelius (September 16) – Pope St. Cornelius is a patron of hearing ailments due to his name coming from the Latin for horn, and in art is usually shown holding a horn, the type that was used in the Middle Ages to rally troops in battle. These horns had a similar shape as the ear horns that hard-of-hearing people once used to amplify sounds. By this process, he became the patron of ear ailments.
- St. Pio of Pietrelcina (September 23) – Confession was his primary activity of the day. He was known for reading souls in the confessional.