When necessary, I explain dinner to The Wife rather than wait for her to ask, “What are we eating?” I will say that my favorite comment from her at dinner is, “This is good. What is it?” but I’ve decided to head things off at the pass.
“Why is it called St. Joseph’s sawdust?”
Her question was valid. It’s actually called mudrica, which according to Google translate, is Italian for…mudrica. What the hell? Sawdust is segatura; mudrica has no translation. Well, that makes no sense. Anyhow, it turns out that pasta with breadcrumbs is a traditional Italian dish served on St. Joseph’s day. The breadcrumbs represent the sawdust from the floor of his carpentry shop.
The recipe itself comes from John Besh’s 2009 cookbook My New Orleans. NOLA, it turns out, was a major point of entry for Sicilians emigrating to the United States. St. Joseph’s Day remains an important holiday on the Mardi Gras calendar and Catholic churches in the town create elaborate decorations in his honor.
So, there you go, a recipe and a history lesson in one blog entry. You’re welcome.
WHAT WORKED: The currants offered a nice, unexpected sweetness to the pasta. You don’t expect sweet when biting into a pasta coating.
WHAT DIDN’T: 1/4 cup of olive oil might be too much. My pasta was more like wet sand than sawdust.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “I like this more than I thought I would when I saw you open the box of currants.”
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Most likely next March 19.
Mudrica (St. Joseph’s Sawdust)
From My New Orleans: The Cookbook by John Besh, Andrews McMeel Publishing (2009)
- 1 lb. pasta, any shape
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
- 2 tbsp. dried currants
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- pinch fresh chopped oregano leaves
- pinch kosher salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook per the directions on the package.
Combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until well combined.
Drain the pasta, top with the breadcrumb mixture, and toss to coat.