Chef Sal Impastato’s Sicilian Pasta Milanese recipe isn’t just delicious but also has a very spiritual meaning for lots of Sicilian New Orleanian. Pasta Milanese is a St. Joseph’s Day tradition for Sicilians. The Saint Joseph’s Day menu is meat-free because this day falls during the Lenten season.
The tradition of St. Joseph’s Day altars goes back for centuries. Sicilians had been suffering from famine because of the country’s poor farming and drought. When they could not provide for their families any longer, the Sicilians turned to their faith. They prayed to St. Joseph so they would have a successful crop and end the famine.
The farmers and fishermen gathered together to feed their country in the only way they knew how — by building altars in their homes and sharing their food in honor of St. Joseph. The tradition is carried on today throughout Sicily and Italy and across America.
The toasted breadcrumbs that are added as a garnish, represent the carpenter St. Joseph’s wood shavings.