Eaten year-round, but especially on March 19th, the day Italy celebrates the feast day of St. Joseph, this humble dish calls for just a few ingredients. The name comes from the main ingredient used, the breadcrumbs, which is said to resemble the sawdust left behind after a carpenter’s workday. This pasta is also often served as a first course on Christmas Eve, a day Italians traditionally enjoy seafood recipes or other meatless dishes. The recipe below serves about 4 - 5 people, but you can adjust accordingly. Prep time is minimal at best, and it all takes well under 30 minutes to prepare. Plus, it’s what I call a “pantry pasta,” you should have everything you need in your panty or cupboards. Make this dish more satiating with some raisins and pine nuts. Add them to step 1 while toasting the breadcrumbs. These are typical Sicilian additions to this dish.
Also, I find toasted bread crumbs much more flavorful than plain bread crumbs, so when you’re making this recipe, toast a double batch and save the rest in the refrigerator for later. They’re great for coating chicken for chicken Parmesan cutlets.
St. Joseph’s Day Pasta
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 cups unseasoned breadcrumbs
Table salt for the pasta water
1 pound bucatini, spaghetti, fettuccini, or other long pasta
8 anchovy fillets, chopped
Crushed red pepper flakes
1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat ¼ cup of oil. Add the breadcrumbs and mix with a wooden spoon. Toast the breadcrumbs until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside in a small bowl.
2. Meanwhile, in a 6-quart pot over high heat, bring about 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir, and cook to just under al dente, about 2 minutes less than the box instructs.
3. Meanwhile, as the pasta cooks, in the same sauté pan used for the bread crumbs, add the remaining ¼ cup of oil, chopped anchovies and the oil they came in, and red pepper flakes, and cook over low heat until the oil is hot but not burning, and the anchovies break down.
4. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 or 3 tablespoons of pasta water. Add the pasta to the sauté pan. Coat evenly, adding a few tablespoons of the pasta water, or additional oil, if it’s looking dry. Continue until the pasta is fully cooked to the al dente state.
5. Turn the heat off, and add most of the breadcrumbs to the pasta, stirring to coat evenly. Season with additional salt, if needed. Plate the pasta and top each dish with the remaining breadcrumbs.
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