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Maccheroni di San Giuseppe con la mollica
Maccheroni di San Giuseppe con la Mollica (St. Joseph's Day Spaghetti with breadcrumbs, honey and raisins)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Festa di San Giuseppa
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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Maccherone di San Giuseppe [For 12 Servings]

For pasta:
2 packages (450 g each) of spaghetti

For sauce:*

8 cups home-made bread crumbs
2 cups vegetable oil*
2 cups honey*
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 glove garlic

* Personally, I found that 1 cup oil and 1 cup honey was ample enough for 8 cups of home-made breadcrumbs. So while my mother uses double that amount that doesn't mean that everyone else in her hometown did too when she was growing up there. Prior to World War II each household had their own take on traditional recipes (Remember in the countryside few people had measuring utensils -- they used the palms of their hands to measure stuff). The bottom line: use whatever amounts you think will work best for you.

* If one were to make home-made spaghetti one would use "Everday pasta dough [See recipe]


Dry two loaves of Italian country bread (takes about two to three days; bread shouldn't be overly dry). Remove crust if desired, and then grate, but not too thinly, rather, use the larger holes. Alternatively, buy and use unseasoned bread crumbs.

Heat vegetable oil (in Italy olive oil was used for this recipe, but my mother always used vegetable oil after she arrived in Canada, preferring it to olive oil), using a glove of garlic to indicate how hot it is; once the glove is burned remove it. Reduce temperature (medium heat).

Add honey. Reduce temperature again (should be on low heat).*

Add breadcrumbs and salt, stir for about ten minutes.

Add raisins and finely chopped parsley. Stir for about five minutes. Turn heat off.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions and drain.

In a large bowl toss the spaghetti with about 2 cups of the prepared bread and honey tossing (leaving the remainder aside)

Fill each individual pasta plate with the tossed spaghetti and top the plate with a touch more of the honeyed breadcrumb mixture.

Whatever is left over of the honeyed breadcrumb mixture (about 3 cups) place in a bowl and place on the dinner table, so whoever wants to use more on their spaghetti can.

This dish can be served warm or cold.**

** While in North America this dish is always served warm (Hosts wait for their guests to arrive before cooking the spaghetti, as fresh is better), prior to World War II this dish was often served cold and eaten with one's hands. The reason for this was simple -- this dish was one of the foods devotees of Saint Joseph gave to the needy, and as the needy would drop by at the devotees' homes at various hours of the day (Bringing along their own napkins to collect the food in -- no extra plates back then to go around!), the food would inevitably be cold. Actually, many people did prefer "Maccherone di San Giuseppe di Casacalenda" cold. Honestly speaking, it is as good cold as it is warm. This spaghetti dish is as much a dessert as it is a main dish.


My maternal grandmother was a devotee of Saint Joseph (She believed the Saint himself once saved her life). So, this recipe is rather special to me. Even though Maccherone San Giuseppe is not a dessert, it's a main meal, still, there is honey in it, so the dish is rather sweet. In Italy olive oil was used for this recipe, but my mother prefers vegetable oil for this dish, and that's how it was always done at her house, and that's how I do it. Apparently, in Italy, spaghetti was generally reserved for very special events. The reason for this was simple -- spaghetti were difficult to do as few people (if any) in the countryside owned pasta makers. Each spaghetti strand was cut individually (unlike the other thin pastas where the pasta sheets were folded over to speed up the process of cutting the home-made pasta). Anyway, because spaghetti were reserved for special events, the dough that was used generally contained eggs. However, this was not the case on the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. Prior to World War II the dough used to make the spaghetti for Saint Joseph did not contain eggs. On this feast day large groups of people got together, so making an egg-based dough would simply have been too expensive for most households. Also, it would have taken too much time. Most cooks bought the spaghetti for Saint Joseph at a neighborhood shop (The store-bought spaghetti did not contain eggs). Devotees of Saint Joseph would often give the spaghetti they made to the poor who came knocking on their doors for an offering. Some of the poor came round with cloth napkins on which the spaghetti was placed. Others were so poor that they did not have napkins, they placed the "maccheroni di San Giuseppe con la mollica" offered in their aprons. The poorest of the poor went around collecting the spaghetti from house to house and then placed what they collected on their balconies. Back then there were no fridges, so the balconies were used as a kind of fridge in the winter and early spring. So the poor on the Feast Day of Saint Joseph managed to collect enough food for a week. .... "Maccheroni di San Giuseppe con la mollica" was only done at my maternal grandmother's on St. Joseph's feast day. However, my Zia Rosina tells me, that in other households in my hometown, Casacalenda, this dish was actually served three times a year: on the Feast Day of Saint Joseph, on Christmas Eve, and on Holy Friday.... One more thing every town in every province in every region had their own St. Joseph's dishes. In Guardaliferia, a nearby town, their Maccherone di San Giuseppe was served in tomato sauce. So never assume that any one town's way of doing something is the traditional way of doing things in Italy. It's only traditional to that town -- in fact, it may not even be specific to all the households in the town (Even cousins born in the same town will argue that this or that dish was only done for Christmas and not for Christmas and St. Joseph (or whatever) because their parents only did it for one specific holiday etc. So best not to fight, just accept the fact that in the Italian countryside each household had their own individual way of doing things. Photo: Mary Melfi.

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