St. Joseph's Spaghetti (Spaghetti di San Giuseppe)

Monday, March 6, 2023
St. Joseph’s Spaghetti (Spaghetti di San Giuseppe) is a plain dish of long strands of pasta topped with toasted breadcrumbs, sometimes pine nuts toasted with a little orange zest, fresh minced parsley, and currents.

On March 19th St. Joseph's Day, Grandma from Rome, Italy would make this dish every year to celebrate the day.

She referred to this meal as peasant food since it was inexpensive to make but very special in preparation when she was growing up and considered it a special feast to celebrate the day.

This dish was traditionally served on Christmas Eve and St. Joseph's Day but can be made any time of the year.

Considering back in the 1800s many ingredients were scarce plus this meal is considered a poor man's food, they made what they had on hand into a feast.

Grandma was born in that time period and her parents taught her how to transform the simplest ingredients and repurpose them into a fantastic meal like this one.

I asked Grandma one day"Why the toasted breadcrumbs were on top"? Grandma replied, "St. Joseph was a carpenter and the toasted breadcrumbs resembled sawdust to honor his trade".

Grandma would make her own coarse breadcrumbs out of stale bread (since my dad, her son) worked in a local bread bakery so we had plenty of bread left over he would bring home.

This flavorful dish has anchovies in it, and sometimes Grandma added sardines if that's all we had in the pantry.

Many other Regions in Italy added currents, orange zest, and pine nuts, which we included as an option to adapt this recipe to how your family served this dish.

For dessert, we also make St. Joseph's Day Zeppole which is a ricotta cream-filled delicious Italian dessert every year as a tradition.

Grandma's version of this recipe is at the bottom of this post just scroll all the way down to print this off.

Spaghetti with anchovies

Step by Step St. Joseph's Spaghetti

  1. toast the breadcrumbs and set them aside
  2. boil the pasta in salted water, drain, and retain the pasta water keeping it warm
  3. saute the garlic in oil with the anchovies and the optional ingredients
  4. toss in with the pasta and top with toasted breadcrumbs
  5. see complete measurements and times in the printable recipe card at the end of this post

collage of spaghetti with anchovy sauce

Other Pasta Suggestions

Note: although Grandma made her own homemade hand-cut macaroni here are some suggestions you can use:

cooking spaghetti collage

Ingredients To Have On Hand

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • anchovies
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Spaghetti or another pasta you prefer
  • pasta water
  • chopped flat-leaf Italian fresh parsley
  • Optional: red pepper flakes for a little heat, pine nuts, orange zest, currants, or raisins
  • grated Pecorino Romano and Parmesano Reggiano blended cheese is optional for garnishing

making bread crumbs in the food processor

Substitution Suggestions

spaghetti St.Joseph's Style for March 19th

More Recipes to Try:

Cappellini Spinach Pomodoro
15 Pasta Recipes
Shrimp Fra Diavolo

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Simple Italian Pasta Dish

Celebrating certain holidays is an Italian tradition.

This classic spaghetti with toasted breadcrumbs and anchovies is an old vintage recipe with a basic white sauce not red.

One of the best versions I've ever eaten and we still continue to make it on March 19th to honor St. Giuseppe.

The best part of this simple dish is it can be made any time of the year.

St. Joseph's Spaghetti (Spaghetti di San Giuseppe)

St. Joseph's Spaghetti (Spaghetti di San Giuseppe)
Yield: 6
Author: Claudia Lamascolo
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 15 MinTotal time: 25 Min
Spaghetti di San Giuseppe is a plain dish of long strands of pasta topped with toasted breadcrumbs, sometimes pine nuts toasted with a little orange zest, fresh minced parsley, and currents


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter for toasting breadcrumbs or olive oil
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon flat-leaf chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cups unseasoned coarse breadcrumbs (made out of 3 or 4-day-old stale bread or use storebought panko style breadcrumbs)
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 few shakes or to your taste of red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound spaghetti or another long-style pasta you prefer
  • salt for the pasta water (reserve 1 or 2 cups of pasta water)
  • Optional: 1/3 cup of current, or raisins, 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts, and 1 tablespoon of orange zest
  • Garnish: extra virgin olive oil for drizzling and grated Pecorino Romano cheese and fresh cracked black pepper


  1. For making the breadcrumbs, place hard stale bread in the food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times until coarse crumbs are formed.
  2. Boil around 5 quarts of water with salt and cook your favorite spaghetti or another long-shaped pasta.
  3. Drain and add to a big bowl set aside with the reserved pasta water to keep it from sticking together adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil (keep warm).
  4. In a large deep skillet add 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil and the coarse breadcrumbs.
  5. Saute and toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown this takes around 4 to 5 minutes stirring constantly so they don't burn.
  6. Note: if using pine nuts add them to the breadcrumbs to toast
  7. The breadcrumbs are served on top as a garnish do not put them on until last or they will get soft and not stay crisp.
  8. Place the toasted breadcrumbs in a bowl and set them aside.
  9. Add the olive oil into a clean deep skillet, and saute the garlic for 2 minutes.
  10. Stir in the anchovies, parsley, and red pepper flakes stirring constantly for around 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Add 2 cups of the reserved warm pasta water, (raisins, and the zest if using) and just toss them together.
  12. Place cooked pasta on a large platter and toss it with the sauce.
  13. Top the pasta with the breadcrumbs (pine nuts, if using).
  14. Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
  15. Garnish with grated Pecorino if desired and freshly cracked black pepper.
  16. Note: during Lent, no meat was used in our recipe
St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti, March 19th Italian recipes, spaghetti recipes, toasted breadcrumb topped pasta, anchovies and pasta, Christmas Eve recipes
Christmas Eve recipes, St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti, March 19th Italian recipes, spaghetti recipes. recipes for St. Joseph's Day

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pin for later St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti

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