March 19 is the Feast of St. Joseph, Festa di San Giuseppe. It’s a big day in Italy and a big day among Italian-Americans.
St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day in Italia. Joseph was Mary’s husband and helped raise the young Jesus. St. Joseph is also Sicily’s patron saint. The story is that St. Joseph’s intervention saved Sicilians from starvation during a severe Middle Ages drought.
I make some of my favorite Italian food this time of the year in celebration of the Festa di San Giuseppe, the Feast of St. Joseph.
This year I’m making Sicilian St. Joseph’s Day dishes. First up is Spaghetti di San Giuseppe with toasted breadcrumbs that symbolize the sawdust on a carpeter’s floor.
The spaghetti is bathed in a zesty garlic, olive oil and anchovy sauce topped with nutty, golden toasted breadcrumbs. Spaghetti di San Giuseppe is a humble, simple dish with deep complex flavor. You can make the sauce in the time that it takes to cook the pasta.
My Italian roots are in Campania so I can’t forego making a Neapolitan pastry, Zeppole di San Giuseppe. We’re gathering to celebrate an Italian-American friend’s birthday tomorrow. I’m making Zeppole di San Giuseppe as my gift for the birthday boy and his guests.
Happy St. Joseph’s Day. Buon appetito!
- 9 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
- sea salt
- 1 pound spaghetti
- ½ cup olive oil
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- Large pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- ⅔ cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs
- Make the breadcrumbs in a skillet or in the oven.
- In a skillet:
- Warm 2 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.
- Add ¾ cup of fresh breadcrumbs and stir to coat with oil.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the crumbs are golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes.
- In the oven:
- Place ¾ cup of fresh bread crumbs in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Using your hands or a fork, gently combine the ingredients.
- Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F. oven.
- Bake about 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until golden brown and crisp.
- Set the breadcrumbs aside.
- Put a large pot of well-salted water (about 5 quarts) over high heat and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt when the water comes to a boil.
- Add the spaghetti to the boiling water.
- While the spaghetti is cooking to al dente, make the anchovy sauce.
- Finely chop 6 anchovy fillets; cut the remaining 3 into ½-inch pieces; set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.
- Add the garlic, red pepper, and finely chopped anchovies.
- Cook, stirring until the anchovies dissolve.
- Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and bring the sauce to a rapid simmer for about a minute.
- Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies.
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta and ¼ cup of the pasta water to the skillet with the anchovy sauce.
- Toss until the strands are well coated.
- Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
- Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs.
- Add the remaining crumbs to the skillet and toss the pasta again.
- Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls.
- Top each serving with a sprinkling of the reserved bread crumbs.