St. Joseph’s Spaghetti, aka Spaghetti di San Giuseppe, is a pasta dish recipe traditionally served on March 19th and Christmas Eve. A plate of spaghetti which has been coated with a mixture of olive oil, toasted breadcrumbs, walnuts, garlic, golden raisins and parsley.
St. Joseph’s Spaghetti
Think about this for a minute: a plate of carbs (pasta), served with more carbs (toasted breadcrumbs). The breadcrumbs in this recipe are very symbolic – they are meant to represent sawdust (since Saint Joseph was a carpenter), and cheese (since this was a poor man’s dish).
This is a classic example of cucina povera -which literally means “cooking of the poor”. Another example of this peasant cooking would be this recipe for Cacio e Uova or this easy recipe for Pasta and Lentils.
Perhaps this pasta with breadcrumbs recipe doesn’t sound very appetizing to you. I assure you that once you taste it, the combination of sweetness with the mild nutty flavor really works well with the pasta.
What do I need to make St. Joseph’s Spaghetti?
- Olive oil: Extra virgin if available.
- Garlic: Feel free to use more than the stated amount.
- Coarse breadcrumbs: Homemade if possible.
- Walnuts: Chopped finely.
- Parsley: Provides a wonderful contrast in color as well as a clean bright flavor.
- Golden raisins: A wonderful burst of sweetness.
- Spaghetti: The pasta of choice when making this dish. Look for spaghetti no 5.
- Orange rind: Optional, but provides a citrus undertone.
Optional ingredient: Anchovies
As far as accessories are concerned, you will need a large pot to cook the pasta as well as a colander. Also required is a wooden board and a sharp knife to properly chop up the garlic, walnuts and parsley. Finally a large skillet and a wooden spoon to stir fry a few of the ingredients.
How to make St. Joseph’s Spaghetti:
In a large skillet, saute the garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes. If using anchovies, add a couple of them at this point.
Add the breadcrumbs and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and continue to saute. Add the walnuts, raisins and parsley and saute this mixture until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and toasty.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to your package label.
Add one cup of pasta water to the bread mixture if it appears dry.
Once the spaghetti is cooked, simply combine the two by layering in a large bowl.
This pasta dish can be served hot or at room temperature.
Based on my personal experience, this is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. As you can probably guess, I belong to the group that loves this recipe.
If ever you have leftover spaghetti, you can always make this Baked Spaghetti Pie.
Origin of the recipe for St. Joseph’s Spaghetti Recipe:
As you can well imagine, this is another recipe which was part of my Italian heritage.
In my upbringing, Saint Joseph’s Day Spaghetti recipe was only served twice a year: Christmas Eve and on March 19th in honor of Saint Joseph. As you are probably aware, there is another more popular food tradition celebrated on this day: Zeppole di San Giuseppe (just follow the link for the recipe).
I still have vivid images of my paternal grandmother standing on a chair, armed with a large wooden paddle (which my dad had made) stirring the freshly ground bread crumbs in a pool of olive oil in an industrial sized stock pot.
How could I forget the sweet aroma and the sound of the garlic sizzling in the olive oil? And then the moment when my grandmother decided that it was time to add the bread crumbs, well everyone had to stand back for fear of getting splattered with oil. It really was such a dramatic event… I can’t help but smile when I think of those moments.
As a child, I was so impressed with the authority, confidence and pride my grandmother had when she made this dish. This dish represented her roots, in the rural town of Ripabottoni, in the province of Campobasso, in the Italian region of Molise.
On March 19th and on Christmas Eve, family and friends are always welcomed to drop by and have a meal together and enjoy this simple recipe for Saint Joseph’s Day Spaghetti!
THANKS SO MUCH for following and being part of the She Loves Biscotti community where you will find Simple & Tasty Family-Friendly Recipes with an Italian Twist.
Ciao for now,
★★★★★ If you have made this recipe for St. Joseph’s Spaghetti, I would love to hear about it in the comments below and be sure to rate the recipe!
St. Joseph's Spaghetti Recipe
- 8 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 2 cups unseasoned coarse breadcrumbs
- 2 cups finely chopped walnuts about 200 grams
- 4 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- ¾ cup of golden raisins plumped (about 100 grams)
- 1 pound spaghetti 454 grams (1 package)
- salt to taste
- pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Orange peel optional
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Sauté the garlic until fragrant, 1-2 minutes (do not brown).
- Reduce heat to medium low and add the breadcrumbs.
- Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and combine. Stir together for about 2 minutes (breadcrumbs will get slightly toasted and should absorb the oil).
- Add the chopped walnuts and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
- Add raisins and parsley. Stir to combine for 1-2 minutes. Set aside. Add up to 1 cup of the cooking water (from the pasta) if the mixture appears to dry.OPTIONAL: Add orange peel and combine with the raisins and parsley.
- Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
- Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. Drizzle 2 more tablespoons of olive oil.
- In a large serving dish, alternate layers of pasta and bread mixture (top with bread mixture). Note: Remove orange rind if used in the mixture.
- Garnish with parsley and drizzle remaining olive oil.
- Feel free to adjust the amount of garlic, walnuts and raisins based on personal preference.
- Use a vegetable peeler to get slivers of orange peel.
- This dish is usually served at room temperature.
- If possible, make your own coarse breadcrumbs as the commercial variety is usually too fine.
As I am the only one in my family who loves this dish, I make it for myself every March 19th because as you say “one either loves it or hates it”. When I was a little girl I hated the day we had to go to Nonna’s (from Casacalenda) to eat this but now as an adult, I love it. And I have not stopped in my “campaign” every year to get others to try it again and love it too. Thanks Maria for passing on these great delicious Italian dishes that also have so much tradition. Happy St. Joseph’s Day!
Thanks so much for sharing Cynthia! Hope you had a wonderful day!
Same here, my Grandmother introduced this dish to the entire family. From Casacalenda, she moved in Montreal in the early ’20’s, since my childhood, it is a tradition, after my Mom, now my kids are doing it. Slight variance though, ours is made out from bread crumps, orange zest, golden raisins, black pepper and honey. The pasta has to be Bucatini. The tradition is, and I don’t know why, that you have to eat that dish with your hands….I’ve always used a fork. It’s actually standing here in the fridge….This will revive old memories again and again. Buon appetito!
I make Pasta Sarde on St. Joseph’s Day almost every year. But I admit, I cheat! I make a pot of my gravy(sauce) with no meat, and then I add one or two cans of “Cuoco Seasoning for Macaroni with Sardines”. We love it. And I also brown some regular Progresso bread crumbs in butter to sprinkle on top of the pasta. Yum!
Thanks for sharing Judy! Sometimes we do need some shortcuts in the kitchen!
I remember my Grandmother making this every year for Christmas. That was the only time that she didn’t clean up after the meal. She said on Christmas you had to leave the meal out for the Baby Jesus. Those were good times, I sure miss them. They were both immigrants from Paterno, Italy, and I loved them dearly.
Thank you so much for sharing Wes ♥
We grew up on this dish minus the raisins. Added red pepper flakes before topping w/ breadcrumbs. Had it at least once a month sometimes more. Love it. Don’t forget the grated cheese on top!
I love all the wonderful variations! Thanks so much for sharing Debbie!
We just finished eating this for dinner and it was delicious! This is being added to my recipe box! Thank you so much for sharing with us!
My pleasure Donna! Thanks so much for sharing!
I enjoyed hearing the Nonna story in the kitchen. Reminded me of mine(same experience..)
I came on ur blog to see if there was any sugar added or not. I couldn’t remember.
Noticed you were also from Rip The Buttons! Not many I hear from there.
Buon Appetito, Joe.
Thanks for stopping by Joe. Auguri! Happy name-day!
We would not be who we are without the influence of our nonnas ♥
It really is a wonderful little town.
I hope you will be posting aster recipes. I have spent my entire adult life looking for the perfect Easter bread. The one I remember had the flavors of anise, orange, and lemon and was, I think, mistakenly called Pignia. Does any of this ring a bell?
Hi Bonnie, yes, I have a recipe for a simple Easter bread (simply click on the link). You can easily add those flavorings to the recipe to create the Easter bread of your childhood. Enjoy!
We have a kids club at church where we learn about the saints. I will be making this as we chat about St. Joseph! Thank you so much!
My pleasure Mary! Enjoy!
Oh my gosh!!! I remember this pasta from when I was a little girl. My grandmother made it every St Joseph’s day and I loved it. I called it “spaghetti with grass” for some reason–ha!! Must have been the parsley. My Dad never made it so I’m assuming it wasn’t his favorite and why I didn’t have the recipe. It was his sister that told me about the tradition and gave me the recipe. My family (Sicilian) also made stuffed artichokes and that was a Christmas Eve tradition as well as sfenji (spelling) which was the wonderful fried dough with anise, covered with powdered sugar and drizzled with honey. Watching her fry those are fond memories.
Food memories are the best! Thank you so much for taking the time to share Dianne, I really appreciate it.
This is so true, you either love(d) this pasta dish or you were indifferent…
So many wonderful Christmas traditions… thanks again for sharing.