St. Joseph’s Day is a major feast day in Sicily. Legend has it that the people of Sicily were suffering through a severe drought in the Middle Ages and prayed to St. Joseph to send rain. The coming of the rain is celebrated each year on March 19th. St. Joseph’s Day is also the day Father’s Day is celebrated throughout Italy (because Jesus was Joseph’s adopted son)!

A St. Joseph’s Day Pasta Recipe: Bucatini with Sardines and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

What is bucatini? It’s like hollow spaghetti, and it’s delicious!

My favorite pasta for this recipe is bucatini, but you can also use thick cut spaghetti. If you are not familiar with bucatini, let me give you the lowdown. This pasta might look like spaghetti, but there’s one big difference: Bucatini is hollow in the center. In fact, the word “buca” means hollow in Italian. The unique nature of this pasta makes it perfect for sauce to rest in the hollowed-out noodles.

What are the traditional ingredients in St. Joseph’s Day recipes?

Because this holiday takes place during Lent, recipes traditionally do not include any meat. In fact, true St. Joseph’s Day recipes do not include any cheese, since milk products were so scarce during the drought. We may be a true Italian family, but I venture a little bit from tradition because this bucatini pasta recipe is sooo much more delicious with cheese!

A St. Joseph’s Day Pasta Recipe: Bucatini with Sardines and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

What’s a good substitute if you don’t like sardines?

Sardines are a traditional fish used in Sicilian dishes. Here’s a fun fact: Breadcrumbs in St. Joseph’s Day recipes represent sawdust since St. Joseph was a carpenter. Every ingredient in this dish has a special symbolic meaning… except for maybe my cheese. Well, it’s special to me! I also veer from tradition a little bit in my St. Joseph’s Day soup recipe—check it out to find out how!

If you don’t care for sardines, you can substitute them with more anchovies, but I think sardines are wonderful in this recipe. They add savory flavor, a little salt, and a lot of Sicilian tradition.

Yield: 6
A St. Joseph’s Day Pasta Recipe: Bucatini with Sardines and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

A St. Joseph’s Day Pasta Recipe: Bucatini with Sardines and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 25 MinTotal time: 45 Min
If you’ve never tried bucatini before, now’s your chance. This leveled-up spaghetti is going to blow your mind! Celebrate St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th or enjoy this one all year round.


  • ⅓ cup golden raisins or currants
  • A pinch of saffron
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup homemade breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1½ cups (about 1 medium) fennel bulb, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 anchovy filets, coarsely chopped
  • 3 (3.75 ounce) cans sardines packed in olive oil, drained, and patted dry
  • 2 teaspoons salt for the pasta water
  • 1 pound bucatini or thick spaghetti
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the raisins or currants with a pinch of saffron. Add the ½ cup hot water and stir gently. Let the raisins/currants soak in this mixture while you are making the rest of the dish. Do not drain. You will be using the soaking liquid in the recipe.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over moderate heat. Add one clove of minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, being careful not to brown the garlic. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Remove the crumbs from the pan and reserve in a mixing bowl.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water. Now add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. You may not use all of the pasta water but I like to keep a little extra just in case.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, begin making the sauce. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, the remaining 2 minced garlic cloves, and the diced fennel. Sauté, stirring often, until the mixture turns a light golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato paste and anchovies and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add half of the sardines, using the back of a spoon or spatula to break them up.
  7. Add the raisins along with the soaking liquid and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the anchovies and sardines will add a salty flavor to the mixture so start out sparingly with the seasoning. I recommend tasting it first before adding anything!
  8. Add the drained pasta to the mixture along with ½ cup of your reserved pasta water. Stir the pasta well to coat with the sauce. If the sauce seems too dry, drizzle in a little more of the pasta water. Gently stir in the remaining sardines and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual pasta bowls.
  9. Add the Parmesan cheese to the olive oil breadcrumbs. Scatter the breadcrumbs over the pasta, garnish with chopped parsley, and enjoy!
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