As I write, St. Joseph Day celebrations are unfolding across the diocese, this nation and of course, Italy where the foster father of Jesus and the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary is known as San Giuseppe.
A carpenter by trade, San Giuseppe is the patron saint not only of fathers and workers but of the family, of mothers, of fatherless and orphaned children and of the dispossessed, homeless and hungry.
Considering all the worthy patronages born of his abiding reputation as protector and provider of his family – and by extension all humankind – traditional celebrations honoring him are likely to focus on food.The emphasis is on offering the food to the family, to the community at large and especially to those in need.
As it falls on March 19 – the middle of Lent – the Feast of St. Joseph is generally meatless. Celebrations focus on fish, vegetables, fruits, pastries and breads.
Pasta holds pride of place on most St. Joseph Day tables especially “pasta con Mudica” a dish with breadcrumbs which symbolize the sawdust in St. Joseph’s carpenter shop.
There are many variations on this central theme of pasta and breadcrumbs including some with sardines or anchovies and spices such as red pepper and the like.
The recipe offered here grew out of a discussion on the foods of St. Joseph’s Day as The Monitor staff was preparing to tape and episode of The Catholic Corner television show with Msgr. Walter Nolan which begins airing March 21 over local channels. For a schedule, log on to http://www.dioceseoftrenton.org/diocese/radiotv.asp
The Monitor’s Associate Publisher Rayanne Bennett spoke of a memorable pasta con Mudica with ricotta cheese that sounded so good, I had to come up with a version of it.
The end result is a basic pasta con Mudica with ricotta and a little bit of a twist: instead of making breadcrumbs from scratch, I opted for Progresso’s new Panko breadcrumbs Italian style. Crunchy, tasty and a good step saver.
Pasta con Mudica with ricotta
Ingredients: 1 lb. linguine; 1/4 cup olive oil; 6 cloves garlic, crushed; 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped; pinch cayenne pepper; 1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice; 2 tbs. butter; 1/2 cup ricotta cheese; 1 1/2 cups Progresso Panko breadcrumbs Italian style; 1/4 cup pasta water; salt and pepper to taste.
Ricotta cheese, parsley and bread crumbs for garnish.
Directions: cook the linguine according to package directions, drain and reserve a cup of pasta water. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, lightly saute olive oil and garlic til the garlic is golden brown. Quickly stir in lemon juice and butter and make sure it is well blended. Then stir in pasta by the hand full, adding pasta water in small increments so everything is nicely coated. Stir in the bread crumbs slowly, again, making sure that the linguine is well coated. Finish by tossing parsley into the skillet. When all the ingredients are blended together, turn the pasta into a large bowl and toss again.
Dress it up with additional bread crumbs, parsley and dollops of ricotta cheese and serve while piping hot.
A side note: After Scott Alessi, The Monitor’s Photo and Online Editor, took the closeup shots of this dish for Keeping the Feast, it was placed in the refrigerator. At lunch time, we brought it out and enjoyed the dish just as it was, cool and topped with additional bread crumbs and cheese.