March 19th has always been a special day of celebration for our family for that’s the day we celebrate the Feast of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph). This feast honors Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and earthly father to Jesus. Considered by Sicilians as the Patron Saint of their region, St. Joseph is said to have saved Sicily’s residents during one of their many devastating droughts. It is believed that the residents prayed to St. Joseph for rain. Their prayers were answered when the rain came. Their spring crops were spared from being destroyed, which prevented a widespread famine for Sicily. It is believed that this is the reason the celebration is held in March.
We celebrate every year because Joseph is the namesake of several of our family members, starting with our grandfather, father, son/nephew and 2 grandsons (Joseph as their middle name).
The menu for a St. Joseph celebration is rooted in the Sicilian tradition and because the holiday falls during Lent, meat is not eaten during the celebration, hence the sardine sauce. We can remember Grandma Tessie cooking spaghetti with a combination of sardines, onions, fennels, & raisins for the sauce topped with toasted breadcrumbs, known as the “poor man’s Parmigiano”, representing the sawdust left behind after a day’s work in his carpenter’s shop. She cooked this meal (which we grew to love) every March 19 until she was 97. At that last celebration, she asked who would carry on this tradition when she was gone. I told her not to worry, that I would. For the past 16 years, I have been making the Pasta con Sarde just as Grandma did, which is especially enjoyed by our Dad. The focus of the meal is on the Pasta con Sarde but we also enjoy the St. Joseph’s pastries. I always get them from Patsy’s & Son Italian Bakery in Lindenhurst, New York. They are the best I ever tasted and I’m a bit of a cannoli cream snob! If you find yourself on Long Island, do stop in to try their cannolis & cassata cake.
- 1 can Cuoco Condimento per Pasta con Sarde (14.5 ounces)
- 4 cups prepared Basic Tomato Sauce
- 3 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 Tablespoons EVOO
- Pecorino Romano grated cheese for garnish
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, lightly toasted
- 1 lb thin spaghetti (slightly thicker than angel hair/capellini)
- Sauté crushed garlic in EVOO in a large pot until golden. (Do not burn)
- Add the can of Cuoco Condimento per Pasta con Sarde.
- Stir well and simmer about 5 minutes.
- Pour 4 cups of prepared Basic Tomato Sauce to the sardine mixture breaking up the large pieces of sardines. Simmer about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, toast the breadcrumbs in oven or stovetop, but do not burn. Set aside in a serving dish.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt & a drop of EVOO.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- Warm a large serving bowl or platter then put the cooked pasta in it.
- Take some of the sauce mixture to coat the pasta & toss well.
- Add pasta to individual dishes and top with extra sauce, breadcrumbs & grated cheese.
Note: Our family likes to add a spoonful of ricotta cheese on top (optional).