Pasta with Sardines for Saint Joseph’s Day

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Among the main dishes eaten for Saint Joseph’s Day, or La Festa di San Giuseppe, is Pasta with Sardines, or Pasta con le sarde. The legend of how this dish came about is another post. So today, I’m just focusing on its relevance to the upcoming March 19th feast for Saint Joseph, which falls around the spring equinox because this holiday is a Christian iteration of an ancient celebration of thanksgiving offered to the god of fertility for having made it safely through the barren months of winter. Because it is still Lent, no meat is eaten for the Feast. And because sardines are plentiful along the coast this time of year (and therefore easy to catch) and wild fennel is in season throughout the island (one of the only spring greens yet to appear), pasta con le sarde is an ideal “primo piatto.” The main ingredients of pasta con le sarde are sardines, wild fennel, golden raisins, pine nuts, onions, white wine, olive oil, saffron, pasta (Bucatini is the traditional pasta.), and bread crumbs. Bread crumbs are especially important because they not only add a wonderful crispiness to the dish, but they also represent the sawdust of Saint Joseph, who was a carpenter by trade. In fact, Saint Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters, as well as those who make their livings by toil, and the patron saint of fathers (Hence, the god of fertility/spring equinox connection.). Another iteration of this dish is Pasta con le sarde a mare… pasta with sardine at sea… meaning it’s the same recipe without the sardines. When you are in Sicily, be sure to enjoy a serving (or two!) of pasta con le sarde, because the fresh sardines and the wild fennel combination are not something easily duplicated elsewhere. Read more about la Festa di San Giuseppe at http://ow.ly/uuAuT.

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