Pasta Milanese with Saint Joseph’s “Sawdust”


This pasta dish is a classic for New Orleanians of Sicilian descent.

It is the ritual meal (a cena di San Giuseppe) that is traditionally served on March 19th for Saint Joseph’s Day (San Giuseppe).

This version is adapted slightly from John Besh’s recipe in his cookbook, My New Orleans.



  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, diced
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2-14 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  •  28 oz can of San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed toasted, ground
  • 4 large fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano or (leaves from 2 large sprigs)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Creole spices
  • 1 pound spaghetti or bucatini
  1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil, add fennel and onions, cook until browned and caramelized (stirring occasionally).
  2. Add the garlic, cook briefly, then stir in the anchovies and cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes and the can of San Marzano tomatoes, (crushing them with your hands or a fork).
  4. Add the sugar, tomato paste, ground fennel, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes and Creole spices.
  5. Simmer sauce for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  6. In a large pot, cook the pasta, (reserve 1 cup of pasta water) drain.
  7. Combine some of the sauce with the pasta. If the sauce is thicker than you like add the reserved pasta water until you get the desired consistency.


To serve, place in large serving dish or individual bowls, ladle additional sauce on top, sprinkle with Saint Joseph’s “Sawdust”.

Melanzane e Spaghetti Torta
Saint Joseph’s “Sawdust”