This childhood ditty is often what first comes to mind when you hear it’s Columbus Day. But there’s more to the day, which became a Federal holiday in 1934, than the basic facts of the catchy song. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate Columbus’ Italian roots, and the holiday is an important part of Italian-American heritage. Many Italian Americans festeggiare (celebrate) the day by watching or participating in a parade (New York City’s is the largest in the world), enjoying traditional Italian foods, and of course, recounting the amazing tale of Christopher Columbus’ journey to discover the New World. (Kids especially love to hear about the voyage of Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.)
It’s also a great excuse for any family to practice Italian and cook up a feast.
Get started by having kids, grandparents, parents — anyone who’s at home — whip up Marinara Sauce, which translates to “the sauce of the sailors” in Italian. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Columbus Day with your whole family. Have the kids help in the kitchen by adding seasonings to the pot and stirring the sauce (with adult supervision of course). Mangia! (Eat up!)
COLUMBUS DAY MARINARA SAUCE
- In a large pot, sauté one chopped onion in three tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, ½ a teaspoon of dried oregano and ½ a teaspoon of dried basil. Cook until garlic softens, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add 1 large can of diced tomatoes (29 oz) and 1 large can of tomato puree (29 oz), season with salt and pepper and 2 tablespoon of sugar. Stir frequently while sauce comes to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
- Serve over any pasta shape you like best.
(adapted from Around The World Cookbook by Abigail Johnson Dodge)