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.
When Barbara was raising her family this was one of their favorite pasta dishes. Her youngest son always requests this delicious meal every time he visits from California and even asks her to cook this dish while visiting him. It’s a quick and easy meal.
1 lb chicken tenders, cut into 1″ pieces
16-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets
1/4 cup chicken broth to cook broccoli
1/2 cup chicken broth,
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Oregano, dried
6 Tablespoons butter, divided into thirds
2 Tablespoons EVOO + additional as needed
2 garlic cloves, minced or frozen cubes
salt and pepper to taste
1 box Pasta ( we used Farfalle, use any pasta of your choice)
reserve 1/2 cup cooked pasta water
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated for topping
In a large pot bring salted water to a boil to cook pasta.
When water boils lower heat just to keep water hot until ready to add the pasta.
Cook broccoli in chicken broth in a covered microwave-safe dish 6-7 minutes in a microwave. (make sure covering is vented).
In a large skillet or flat-bottomed wok add 1/3 the butter & EVOO until heated. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and softened, Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
Remove onion mixture and set aside.
Add additional 1/3 butter and EVOO to skillet. On med-high heat add chicken pieces & lightly brown quickly on both sides, being careful not to overcook.
Bring pasta water back to a boil and cook according to package directions.
Reduce skillet heat and add onion mixture back to the skillet, sprinkle the dried oregano onto the chicken and onions, continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
Add the cooked broccoli and chicken broth to skillet and stir well.
Add salt and pepper to taste, simmer another 3 minutes add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter to melt into the mixture.
Add cooked pasta to chicken mixture and toss well. If needed add reserved pasta water a little at a time until the desired consistency.
Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese and serve.
Note: Sauté mushrooms in butter for a variation as shown in the last photo below.
Add cubed eggplant to a colander along with a generous amount of course salt & drain for 30 minutes.
Heat EVOO in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.
Add pancetta and cook 4-5 minutes until browned & crispy, stirring occasionally. Add sausage to skillet & cook 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Remove the sausage & pancetta with a slotted spoon. Set aside in large bowl.
Set aside 3 Tablespoons of the oil & fat from the skillet and discard the rest.
Add fennel & onions to skillet along with a pinch of salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Add eggplant to fennel & onions and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Add the sausage & pancetta mixture back to the skillet.
Add crushed tomatoes, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 40 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
While mixture is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water then drain pasta in a colander.
Add the pasta and the 1/2 cup pasta water to the skillet then cook 1 additional minute to incorporate. Stir in the 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese.
Add the pasta to a large serving bowl and top with spoonfuls of ricotta cheese and basil leaves.
This is a fabulous dish for a gathering of good friends accompanied by a simple salad, crusty Italian bread and a glass of dry red wine.