It's Columbus Day in the United States this Monday, a day marked by Italian Americans in Little Italys across the country!

While Columbus Day isn't our holiday the Irish do love pasta and here's an Italian from our Irish chef to mark the day along with an explanation of the day itself! 

Monday (Oct 14) is Columbus Day, unless you live in Nevada, California, Hawaii or South Dakota, then it’s just a regular Monday, even though it is Native Americans Day in South Dakota and Indigenous Peoples Day in California you still have to go to work. Bummer.

In Hawaii, Columbus Day is also known as Landing Day or Discoverer's Day and in Nevada, I believe it’s Tiffany, Peaches and Chardonnay’s laundry day.

Many banks, state and local offices, as well as U.S. post offices and schools, will be closed., it’s a long weekend peops, the last ‘hurrah’ of the summer {unless you live in Nevada, California, Hawaii or South Dakota, then it just works as usual}.

Among the biggest celebrations is in New York where the Columbus Day Parade will starts on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street and continues up Fifth to 79th Street where it concludes with a Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue. How it concludes in the middle is beyond me.

The Columbus Citizens Foundation has been organizing New York's Columbus Day Parade since 1929. More than 35,000 participate in the parade each year, including more than 100 groups sporting floats, bands and an assortment of entries. Some one million spectators view the parade -- including almost 500,000 lining the streets to watch live -- and it is among the largest celebrations of Italian-American culture in the world.

“It’s, like, even bigger than The Jersey Shore”

Christopher Columbus is often portrayed as the first European to sail to the Americas. He is sometimes portrayed as the discoverer of the New World. However, this is controversial on many counts. There is evidence that the first Europeans to sail across the Atlantic were Viking explorers from Scandinavia. In addition, the land was already populated by indigenous peoples, who had 'discovered' the Americas thousands of years before.

Columbus Day originated as a celebration of Italian-American heritage and was first held in San Francisco in 1869. The first state-wide celebration was held in Colorado in 1907. In 1937, Columbus Day became a holiday across the United States. Since 1971, it has been celebrated on the second Monday in October. The date on which Columbus arrived in the Americas is also celebrated as the Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in Latin America and some Latino communities in the USA. However, it is a controversial holiday in some countries and has been re-named in others.

Columbus Day celebrations are controversial because the settlement of Europeans in the Americas led to the deaths of a very large proportion of the native people. It has been argued that this was a direct result of Columbus' actions. It is clear that the arrival of the European settlers led to the demise of a large proportion of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. It has also been argued that Columbus should not be honored for discovering the United States, as he only went as far as some islands in the Caribbean and never got as far as mainland America.

So happy days then.

Sausage, cheese and basil lasagna recipe



2 Tbs. olive oil

1 lb. spicy Italian sausages, casings removed

1 C. chopped onion

3 large garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. dried crushed red pepper

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes with added puree

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion, liquid reserved


1 ½ C. (packed) fresh basil leaves

1 15 oz. container plus 1 C. part-skim ricotta cheese

1 ½ C. (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 oz.)

¾ C. grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz.)

1 large egg

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

12 no-boil lasagna noodles from 1 8 oz. package

3 C. (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 oz.)

1 C. grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 oz.)

Nonstick olive oil spray


To make sauce, heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausages, onion, garlic, oregano, and crushed red pepper and sauté until sausage is cooked through, mashing sausage into small pieces with back of a fork, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with juices.

Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the filling, using on/off turns, chop fresh basil leaves finely in processor. Add ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, ½ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Using on/off turns, process filling until just blended and texture is still chunky.

To assemble, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 1 ¼ C. sauce in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 ½ C. filling over noodles, then spread evenly to cover.

Sprinkle with ¾ C. Mozzarella cheese and ¼ C. Parmesan cheese.

Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times.

Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce on top of noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray a large piece of foil with nonstick olive oil spray.

Cover lasagna with foil sprayed side down.

Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed about 20 minutes. Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

AND FINALLY…They say that Christopher Columbus was the first Democrat. When he left to discover America, he didn't know where he was going. When he got there he didn't know where he was. And it was all done on a government grant.

* Originally published in 2011.