St. Joseph’s Spaghetti (Spaghetti di San Giuseppe, Sawdust Pasta or Carpenter’s Pasta), is pasta coated with toasted breadcrumbs, resembling sawdust in honor of St. Joseph. This dish is traditionally served on March 19th or Christmas Eve, but can be enjoyed year-round.
This is the type of food I grew up on and we didn’t have to wait for March 19th to enjoy it. My Italian aunt and uncle would whip this up in minutes. Although it’s considered “peasant food'' because the ingredients are inexpensive items that you have in your pantry, I think this kind of food makes the most delicious meals, and being Italian and Peruvian, we served it a lot. Don’t confuse the term peasant food and cheap food. It just means you can create tasty dishes using simple ingredients, and this is an example of that.
The best way to experience this dish is to make your own breadcrumbs from leftover bread. Because my family either made their own bread or bought fresh bread from a bakery, it would start to turn hard if not used in a few days. Remember, we don’t use preservatives to make our own bread so it would start to harden after a day or two.
Piles of leftover pieces of bread would be placed in a big bowl where it would dry up. I wrote about that here. You can absolutely use fine breadcrumbs or panko. See the notes on the recipe for adjustments.
You’ll use quite a bit of extra virgin olive oil for this dish but that’s what makes it delicious. The garlic is sautéed in the oil which also includes a pinch of crushed red pepper to add a little zing.
There are a few more ingredients you can add that will make it go from rags to riches. My uncle Tony would add anchovies and we never noticed them because they would melt into the sauce. The anchovies do give it that extra something that makes this dish delicious.
Don’t think you’d like anchovies? If you’ve ever used Worcestershire sauce to make your recipe have flavor, then you’ve had anchovies. Make the leap and give it a try to experience how the recipe was intended to taste. You won’t even know they’re there but you’ll know if they’re not.
You can also add some chopped pine nuts if you happen to have some on-hand. It’s an expensive item, but I buy it in bulk and use it to make my pestos. Life is too short for mediocre food, right? You can substitute some chopped walnuts if you like or just leave out the nuts.
Pasta water, salt and pepper are added to the garlic oil. Add what you like to make it taste good. After you combine the pasta with the sauce, transfer it into a bowl then top with the golden toasted breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs will stay crisp for only so long. I mean, bread mixed with sauce - you get it, right? For that reason, I don’t toss until I’m ready to serve or I plate the pasta and top it off with the crumbs.
Tools you’ll need to make St. Joseph’s Spaghetti:
Like pasta? Try:
- Angel hair with sautéed tomatoes
- Sausage pasta bake with mozzarella
- Simply delicious spinach and cheese pasta salad
- Spaghetti with garlic butter and cheese
- Baked rigatoni with three cheeses
- American chop suey
- Creamy fettuccine with peas and ham
Life is too short for mediocre food.
St. Joseph’s SpaghettiPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until it’s al dente.
While the pasta is cooking:
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and add the breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring often, to coat the breadcrumbs with the oil. Sprinkle in a little salt. Continue until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer crumbs into a bowl and set aside. Wipe skillet clean.
- Add the ½ cup of olive oil into the skillet and add the garlic. Give it a quick stir and cook until just fragrant and not browned. Add the crushed red pepper.
- Stir in anchovies. They will disappear into the sauce and it gives great flavor.
- Add in pine nuts and stir. Stir in chopped parsley. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
- When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water.
- Add the pasta into the skillet and stir to coat. Add about ½ cup of the pasta water to create a sauce. You can add more to your liking.
- Plate the pasta onto a large platter and sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs around the edge. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. I don't toss it all together because I don’t want the breadcrumbs to soften. When serving, give it a quick toss or serve the pasta and top with crumbs.
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