Eggplant Novena


One of my earliest memories of actually working at Lista’s was when I was 12 years old and I was allowed to walk over to the restaurant after Sunday Mass and help Grandma cook eggplant in the back kitchen at 74 Main Street. 

We would set up a work station on one of the two 8-foot butcher block worktables.  On one end of the table was a small deep fryer and next to that we set up a rectangular plastic bin (we called them “fish tubs” because that’s what fish were delivered in) full of Italian seasoned bread crumbs mixed with some flour, and next to that was a big round stainless tub with a blend of beaten eggs and milk.

We would clean and trim a case of 24 eggplant (the big purple ones) and then Grandma would slice them on a deli slicer into 1/2″ rounds — I wasn’t allowed to use the slicer until I was older. I would take the slices by double handfuls and submerge them in the egg-wash. Then Grandma would have me lift each slice out of the egg-wash, press it into the bread crumbs on both sides, and gently lay it in the empty bin in single layers with sheets of waxed paper in between. Once all the eggplant was breaded we would let it sit for about 10 minutes to allow the breading to set up. Then we would fry the breaded eggplant slices in the deep fryer set to 325º F.

Now this is the part of the story that makes it a fun memory for me… Grandma had her own special way to know when the eggplant slices were done cooking.  She would tell me to carefully place the breaded slices into the hot oil (they would float on the surface) and we would recite the “Our Father” prayer — then with a long pair of tongs she would flip the slices over and we would say the “Hail Mary” and then the slices were done! (Who can argue with that method.) Golden brown on both sides, not fully cooked, but tender and ready for final cooking when ordered.

And there were several ways you could order eggplant on the Lista’s menu: Eggplant Parmigiana with a side of Spaghetti, the Eggplant & Ravioli Combination, Baked Stuffed Eggplant (with ricotta cheese filling), a Side order of Eggplant, an Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich, or the Original Lista Burger (a char-broiled hamburger topped with eggplant, mozzarella, and sauce on a grilled hard roll).  Any way you ordered it Lista’s eggplant was delicious!

Lista’s Eggplant Parmigiana

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time:  45 minutes
Serves:  4-6 servings

2 medium Eggplant – sliced 1/2″ thick rounds
1 tsp Salt (optional)
2 Eggs
1/4 cup Milk
2 cups Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Vegetable or Light Olive Oil as needed for frying
1/2 lb Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
4 cups prepared Lista’s Sauce (or 2 jars store bought sauce)

1.  Preheat oven to 350º F – Cover a rimmed baking sheet with foil (for easier clean up) and spray with cooking spray (if desired).
2.  If desired sprinkle the sliced eggplant with salt and set in a colander for 30 minutes. (This step is not necessary but some believe it makes the eggplant less “bitter.” Actually using a fresh, young, medium sized eggplant should prevent any bitterness.  Also we prefer not to peel the eggplant but you can — it’s personal choice.)
3.  In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and milk together.  In a second larger bowl combine the bread crumbs, flour and Romano cheese.
4.  Dip slices of eggplant in the egg-wash and then press into the bread crumb mixture until both sides are coated — place breaded eggplant on a plate or baking tray in a single layer with wax paper or parchment between layer.  Continue until all eggplant slices are breaded — allow to “rest” about 5-10 minutes before frying.
5.  Heat 1/2″ oil in a large heavy skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Gently add breaded eggplant in a single layer and cook, turning over once, until golden brown on both sides — about 3 minutes per side (praying is optional).  Add more oil as needed and continue to cook until all slices are fried.
6.  On foil covered baking sheet, line up slices of eggplant in groups of 4-5 overlapping slices — top with 1/2 cup sauce and a slice of mozzarella. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until heated through and cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

There you have it, Lista’s Eggplant Parmigiana.  You can serve the eggplant as is with a nice green salad, or with a side of your favorite pasta and sauce, or on a toasted sub roll for an authentic eggplant parmigiana sandwich.

And another note… as I said earlier, I was about 12 when I learned to cook eggplant with my Grandma. That would have made it 1974 and it so happens that was the year actress Noel Neill (Lois Lane in movies and “The Adventures of Superman” TV series) came to speak at SUNY Brockport and ate at Lista’s.  And what did she eat? Eggplant Parmigiana! You can see below a photo of Dad and Ms. Neill and a note she wrote on the back of a menu, “Mr. Lista, Enjoyed your fabulous eggplant & so nice meeting you — Noel “Lois Lane” Neill”   What a Super endorsement!


Until next time remember… “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”


Sidewalk Sale Sausage & Peppers

The middle of July always reminds me of two things about growing up at Lista’s in Brockport NY.  First, was the Fireman’s Parade and Carnival that was the highlight of every local kid’s summer. The parade was one of the best around and marched right down Main Street in front of Lista’s.  Since my brothers, sisters and I would be hanging around we sometimes got asked by one of the parade vendors to sell balloons or popcorn to the crowd (I think we got paid like 2¢ for every box of popcorn).  As a 12 year old kid, it was pretty cool walking up and down the crowded street “hawking” these goods to the onlookers.

The second thing I remember about mid-July is the Downtown Merchant Association Annual Sidewalk Sale.  This was truly the big event of the summer in Brockport.  The street was blocked off and all the stores up and down Main Street would bring their wares out onto the sidewalk and sell at a discounted price.  It was really something to see — crowds of people milling around the tables and racks of clothing, books, toys, knick knacks, household goods… you name it and someone was selling it.  And there were the local organizations, churches and the like, with baked goods, crafts, and more.  Then there were the food vendors selling hot dogs & burgers, ice cream, pizza slices, beef  on weck sandwiches, french fries with malt vinegar, steamed clams… and everyone’s favorite Lista’s Italian Sausage Sandwiches!

Lista’s Italian sausage sandwiches were a fixture at the sidewalk sale and other local events including the 1979 International Special Olympics held at SUNY College at Brockport.  The 5th International Special Olympics saw some 3,500 athletes with special needs participate and hosted celebrities including members of the Kennedy family, Phil Donahue, Marlo Thomas, Sally Struthers, Christopher Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger and famous athletes including Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rafer Johnson, Hank Aaron and “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali.  And Lista’s was right in the thick of it selling sausage sandwiches by the hundreds.

tobinsAt Lista’s we used exclusively Tobin’s First Prize sausage made right here in Rochester, NY. (Tobin’s left Rochester in the 1970’s and moved to Albany and was later sold to John Morrell & Co.) I remember how the sausage would come in long ropes, spiral packed into round tubs. We would cut the sausage into pudgy 4 oz. portions and gently roll them under our palms on the worktable until they became narrower and about 7 inches long. These long, thin sausage links were then lined up on sheet trays and baked in the oven until cooked through and ready for the grill. We served the grilled sausages on Di Paolo rolls (also made in Rochester) and topped them with our signature fried peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

By the late 70’s Lista’s sausage sandwiches became so popular that Dad decided to build a small enclosure near the back entrance of the restaurant which we called “The Sausage Shed.” There was a walk up window so we could sell sausage sandwiches to passersby throughout the whole summer.

Next time you fire up the grill why not make some Sidewalk Sale Sausage & Pepper Sandwiches and remember the fun of parades, carnivals, and summertime.

Lista’s Sidewalk Sale Sausage & Peppers

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves:  6 sandwiches

1 1/2 lbs. Good Quality Italian Sausage (6 links)
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 large Green Bell Pepper — seeded and cut into 1/2″ strips
1 large Red Bell Pepper — seeded and cut into 1/2″ strips
1 medium Spanish Onion — cut in half and sliced into 1/2″ strips
1 tsp Lista’s Seasoned Salt (or too taste)
1 (16 oz) can Whole Peeled Tomatoes — broken up with a spoon or by hand
6 Bakery Sausage Rolls — split and toasted if desired

1.  If needed, gently roll each sausage link until it is about 7″ long. Place sausage links in a heavy skillet and add about 1/2 cup water. Simmer sausages covered over medium heat until no longer pink inside — about 10 minutes.  Remove sausages to a plate and let cool until ready to grill.
2.  Using the same heavy skillet, empty remaining water and add the olive oil, heat over med-high heat until oil is shimmering. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and season with seasoned salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until peppers and onions are quite tender — about 15 minutes. Add in the tomatoes (broken up) and stir until warmed through. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
3.  Heat outdoor grill (or grill pan) to med-high heat. Grill the pre-cooked sausages until browned all over and hot throughout — about 15 minutes.
4.  Serve grilled sausages in rolls topped with generous amounts of peppers & onions.

There you have it… Lista’s Sidewalk Sale Sausage & Peppers. I hope it brings back memories of summer carnivals and parades — but if not, try eating one while walking down the sidewalk of your hometown, and maybe that will create new memories.

Until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

Giambotta (Grandma Lista Style)

loafWhen I was growing up I wasn’t very appreciative of the traditional cuisine of my Italian heritage. As a matter of fact, when in grade school, I ate the same thing every day for lunch: Oscar Mayer Ham & Cheese Loaf (you know the square mystery meat with the little dots of yellow cheese through it) with French’s yellow mustard on Wonder Bread.

My mom, Doris, who is not Italian, was the one who cooked for us kids at home. We ate what was popular at that time — things like baked chicken, meatloaf, macaroni goulash and tuna casserole. Mom was a good cook and I certainly didn’t go without. But I actually preferred the American foods to the Italian foods back then.

giambottaWhich brings me to this post.  Once in awhile my Grandma Lista would cook for us kids and if it was her homemade manicotti, or her “Sunday sauce” with the chunks of meat, I was a happy little boy.  But if it was Giambotta (we said “jum-brought”) …ugh!  I hated it! I would cry at the thought of having to choke down those awful stewed vegetables.

Fortunately, as I grew up so did my palate and my appreciation for ethnic foods of all kinds. Today I relish a steaming bowl of this summer vegetable stew with lots of grated Pecorino Romano on top and some good crusty bread for dipping.

I had to do a little research on this dish since I only remembered it as a family thing and had not seen it in a cook book or menu before. Thanks to the internet I was able to learn a few things about Giambotta.  First, it can be called many things: giambotta, ciambotta, giambrotta, ciammotta, cianfotta, and ciabotta. Most Italian-Americans pronounce it either “jum-b(r)ought” or “cha-bawt.”  It seems to come from the southern areas of Italy (Grandma’s family was from Calabria) and is a popular late summer dish and often served with grilled sausage. Some recipes called for the addition of hot peppers. One popular food blog shared a recipe that included sliced hot dogs (apparently enjoyed by many Italian-American families in the New York city area). I never remember Grandma making Giambotta with any meat — just lots of garden fresh veggies and tomatoes.

So, however you pronounce it, and whether you add the sausage or not, I hope you try this hearty southern Italian vegetable stew called…

Giambotta (Grandma Lista Style)

Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Serves: 6-8

3 TBSP Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic – minced
2 medium Yellow Onions – sliced
2 stalks Celery – roughly chopped
3 medium Carrots – peeled and roughly chopped
2 large Potatoes – peeled and cut into 1″ dice
1 medium Eggplant – cut into 1″ dice
1 large Green Bell Pepper – seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
1 large Zucchini – cut in half length wise and sliced in 1/2″ half circles
1 large Yellow Summer Squash – cut in half length wise and sliced in 1/2″ half circles
1 (28 oz) can Whole Peeled Tomatoes – broken up with a spoon or by hand
1 cup Chicken or Vegetable Stock (homemade or store bought)
1/2 lb Green Beans – cut in half and blanched in boiling water
1/2 cup Fresh Basil Leaves – roughly chopped
1 tsp Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper – or to taste
Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese – to sprinkle on top

1.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and blanch Green Beans for 1 minute — drain into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.
2.  Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot (with a lid) over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots and cook stirring occasionally until onions are translucent 8-10 minutes.
3.  Working while the onion mixture cooks — chop and add the vegetables in the following order:  Potatoes, Eggplant, Green pepper, Zucchini & Yellow squash.  Cook and stir for 10 more minutes.
4.  Add tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper and blanched green beans.  Stir everything together, cover pot and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
5.  Stir in chopped basil.
6.  To serve, ladle giambotta into bowls and top with a generous amount of pecorino Romano cheese.  Serve with some crusty Italian bread if desired. 

There you have it Giambotta like Grandma Lista made it.  I hope you give this a try before the fresh produce of summer is gone.  If you don’t have a garden you can pick up everything at a Farm Market (or the grocery store).  And feel free to add your own personal touch like some hot peppers… some Italian Sausage… or even sliced hot dogs!

So until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”

One Potato, Two Potato

As the weekend approaches with July 4th on the horizon, I have been thinking about summer picnics and, of course, Potato Salad!  

For me potato salad is not only iconic as an American picnic food — it is by far my favorite mayo-based side dish.

Now I know that everyone claims their family potato salad recipe is the best, but my Dad’s potato salad really was amazing.  What made it so “amazing?”  I think it comes down to a simple combination of quality ingredients, in the right proportion, with the right blend of flavor, color and texture.

When it came to cooking, Dad tended to lean toward the uncomplicated.  Most the recipes and techniques I learned from him were simple, tried and true, versions of the dishes many people over think or over embellish.  Take potato salad for example, Dad allowed the potatoes to be the star by only adding hints of other vegetables and not a lot of spices or other flavors.

So, let’s talk a little about ingredients:  

First, you need good potatoes. Most salad recipes will call for a thin skinned, waxy potato such as New Potatoes, Red Bliss or Yellow Finn. However, Dad used the starchy, thick skinned Russet potatoes at Lista’s. (Primarily because that’s what was on hand since we had cases of them for baked potatoes.) At home we most likely used all purpose potatoes like Yukon Gold. While it’s true that waxy potatoes hold their shape better when cutting and boiling — the secret to great potato salad is to cook the potatoes whole with the skin on. And choose potatoes that are all about the same size so they cook evenly. Cook the potatoes in salted water until just tender – make sure they are tender since crunchy potatoes are a big no-no in potato salad.  Make sure you allow the potatoes to cool thoroughly before mixing the salad to avoid breaking down the mayo.

Second, you need real mayonnaise (think Hellman’s).  Years ago mayo was much better than today.  It was heavier (thicker or more viscous) and contained fewer ingredients (oil, eggs, vinegar, lemon, salt, spices) which gave it a cleaner flavor. While you may choose to use fat free or light mayo for other purposes, stick with the real deal for this salad. (If you must make your own mayo for health reasons try to use a neutral flavor oil rather than olive, coconut or avocado for this recipe.)

Finally, you want fresh, mildly flavored vegetables to enhance the taste of the potatoes. Celery should be fresh, crisp and preferably taken from the more tender stalks between the outer stalks and the heart.  Onions should be a sweet summer variety like Vidalia. (Note: Onions should be cut with a very sharp knife to avoid releasing the more pungent flavor that comes from the cells being crushed by a dull blade.)  You’ll want a nice medium sized carrot that doesn’t have a woody inner core.  And although we used dry parsley flakes at the restaurant — you will want to use some well washed fresh flat leaf parsley.  Okay, now for the recipe.

Vinnie Lista’s Amazing Potato Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30-45 minutes
Yield: 8-12 servings

5 lbs  Whole Russet Potatoes – well scrubbed and rinsed
5 large Eggs – hard boiled & chopped
2 1/2 cups  Good Quality Mayonnaise (such as Hellman’s)
1 cup  Finely chopped Celery (about 3-4 stalks)
1/2 cup  Finely chopped Vidalia Onion
1 medium Carrot – shredded with a box grater
2 TBSP  Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley – chopped
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
Ground Paprika – for garnish

1.  In a large pot add potatoes and cold water to cover – add 2 TBSP salt.  Bring to a full boil, turn heat to med-low and simmer until just tender but not mushy — a paring knife should pierce the center easily (about 20-40 minutes).  Be sure to test the potatoes a few times toward the end so they don’t overcook.  Carefully drain potatoes and place on a tray to cool completely.  When cool, scrape off the skins with a knife (you should remove very little flesh) — remove any “eyes” or dark spots.  Cut the potatoes into 1″ chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.
2.  Place the eggs in a small pan with a lid, cover with cold water, add 1 tsp salt, and bring to a full boil over high heat.  Once boiling turn off heat, cover pan and set a timer for 12 minutes.  After 12 minutes, drain the eggs and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle.  Peel and chop eggs — add to potatoes.
3.  Chop celery, onions, and parsley; and shred the carrot on the large holes of a box grater — add all vegetables to potatoes.
4.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and gently toss together to combine.
5.  Add the mayonnaise all at once and fold into the potato mixture until completely coated (add a bit more mayo if needed).  Taste and adjust salt if needed.
6.  Transfer the finished salad to a serving bowl and garnish with paprika.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

And there you have it… Vinnie Lista’s Amazing Potato Salad.  I really hope you like this potato salad as much as I do and I hope you make it for your next picnic or summer get together.

I titled this post “One Potato, Two Potato” because I also want to share a new favorite potato salad that I created for a catering job recently.  I needed a menu that was vegan, gluten and dairy free — so I decided to make a Roasted Potato & Grilled Vegetable Salad dressed with a simple olive oil vinaigrette.  Give this one a try next time you are using your gas grill.

Roasted Potato & Grilled Vegetable Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings

2 lbs  Tiny Whole Potatoes (white, yellow or red)
1 lb  Fresh Asparagus (try to get the thicker stalks) — trimmed of woody ends
2 large  Red Bell Peppers — seeded and cut into thirds
2 large  Vidalia Onions — peeled, ends trimmed flat, cut in half cross ways
2 TBSP  Flat Leaf Parsley — Chopped
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil — plus more for preparations
2 TBSP Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (like Bragg’s)
1 TBSP Mild Dijon Mustard
1 TBSP  Wildflower Honey
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp  Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2.  Place well washed and dried tiny potatoes in a large bowl and toss with a little olive oil and sea salt.  Put on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet and place in preheated oven.  Roast until lightly browned, starting to wrinkle, and fork tender — about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
3.  Preheat gas grill on high heat — clean and oil grate
4. Grill prepared vegetables over high heat until charred in spots and beginning to soften.  Remove to a platter to cool.
6. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper.  Add in room temperature potatoes and parsley and toss together.
7.  Cut the cooled asparagus into thirds cross ways, cut peppers and onions into 1″ pieces and add all to the potatoes.  Toss together until thoroughly combined and coated with the vinaigrette.  Taste and adjust seasoning as need.
8. Pour potato salad into a serving dish and serve at room temperature (or chill in refrigerator before serving).

There you have it.  Two Potato Salad recipes that will work great with your picnic menu.

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Have a great weekend and Fourth of July… and remember, “The sauce makes the difference!”



Annual Rig Fra Day – continued

Thanks everyone who read the post and made some Rig Fra this week.  Hope you enjoyed it as much as my family did this past Friday night.

I just had to share this great picture of an old Lista’s menu my Aunt Phyllis sent me (not sure the exact date but by the pricing I would say late 60’s / early 70’s — wish we could find a place that inexpensive today!)  

Notice that Rigatoni Fra Diavolo is featured right on top!


So until next time remember, “The sauce make the difference!”

Annual Rig Fra Day

June 23rd is Annual Rig Fra Day in the Lista family.  We started this tradition four years ago on the anniversary of Dad’s passing.  Gathering the family together, sharing memories, and eating Rig Fra (one of his signature creations) is our way of celebrating Dad’s life and his influence on our lives.

So what exactly is Rig Fra?  Rigatoni fra Diavolo is really the one dish that Dad became known for.  Rig Fra is a tasty combination of rigatoni, sauce, peppers, onions, pepperoni, and lots of melted cheese.  Although I’m not really sure when this concoction made it’s way onto the restaurant’s menu — I do remember it was a popular entree on its own, and it was also featured on the “Individual Italian Buffet Platter” — and it was a staple item at Dad’s catered events.

While, in the restaurant, Rig Fra was always made fresh to order on the stove top.  After Lista’s closed in 1980, whenever Dad was invited to a picnic or family gathering, he was asked to bring the Rig Fra.  On those occasions Dad would make it in a huge ‘steam table pan’ and bake it in the oven like lasagna.

Some of you may remember Dad’s famous dish from the Lista’s menu, and some of you from a picnic or family gathering… but unfortunately, some never had the pleasure of eating the one and only Lista’s Rigatoni fra Diavolo.

So, whether you choose to make Rig Fra on June 23rd or on any other day of the year I hope you do make it — and I hope you also remember the dish’s originator, Vinnie Lista.


A few words about Rigatoni… when buying rigatoni for this recipe I really suggest you look for the full size rigatoni with ridges (“…the big stove pipe kind” as one Lista’s customer used to say.)  When cooked they should collapse and no longer be tubes but more like double walled squares of pasta. And please don’t substitute ziti or penne or some other pasta — this dish was made for rigatoni. 

Now a few more words about grated cheese… Lista’s always served fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese, never Parmigiano Reggiano (which seems to be the popular cheese today).  I’m not sure why, but I suspect it has something to do with our ancestry… or maybe we just liked the sharper, more piquant flavor.  Whatever the reason, I strongly urge you to splurge on good Pecorino Romano for any of the Lista’s recipes you try. 

Rigatoni fra Diavolo (Lista’s style)

Prep Time: 10-20 minutes
Cook Time: 30-45 minutes
Yield:  6-8 servings

16 oz.  Dry Rigatoni Pasta (preferably the big ones) – cooked per package directions
1-2 TBSP  Olive Oil
8 oz.  White Mushrooms – cleaned & sliced
1 large  Green Bell Pepper – cleaned, seeded & cut into strips

1 large  Red Bell Pepper – cleaned, seeded & cut into strips
1/2 medium Yellow Onion – cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 tsp.  Seasoned Salt
6 cups Prepared Spaghetti Sauce (2 – 26 oz. Jars if not using homemade)
6 oz.  Sliced Pepperoni 

1/4 tsp.  Crushed Red Pepper flakes (optional – more if you like more heat)
8 oz.  Block Mozzarella Cheese – cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup  Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (not Parmesan) – plus more for topping

There are several steps to this preparation and you have to be good at multitasking if you want to serve this dish directly from the stove top (restaurant style).  

Or you can prepare each component in advance; assemble everything cold in a large casserole dish, and bake in the oven until piping hot and lightly browned (picnic style).

To Prepare:
1.  In a large pot of salted water, cook the rigatoni per package directions to al dente.  Drain pasta into a colander and allow it to sit – keeping the pot empty for later use.
2.  In a medium sauce pan – heat sauce over medium heat until hot.  Add in the sliced pepperoni and crushed red pepper (if desired) – stir to distribute through the sauce.  Turn down burner to low, cover and keep warm.
3.  In a saute pan or skillet – heat 1 TBSP oil over medium high heat and saute
mushrooms until they have browned slightly.  Remove to a plate.  In the same pan add other 1 TBSP of oil and cook onions and pepper strips until just tender (about 5 minutes).  Add sliced mushrooms back to pan, sprinkle with seasoned salt and keep warm.
4.  Dice the mozzarella cheese into 1/2″ cubes and set aside.

To Assemble:
1.  In the large pot you kept handy, combine the hot sauce & pepperoni, cooked peppers, onions & mushrooms, cubed mozzarella and the Romano cheese.  Place on a burner set to med-low heat and stir until mozzarella begins to melt.
2.  Add in the cooked rigatoni and gently fold it into the sauce until fully incorporated and everything is saucy, cheesy, deliciousness.
3.  Serve Rigatoni fra Diavolo piping hot on individual plates topped with more Romano cheese.
4.  Alternately, to serve as a casserole:  In a large bowl mix the pasta, sauce, pepperoni, cooked vegetables, and cheeses – fold everything together until completely combined.  Pour into a 9″x13″ casserole that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 45 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted.  Perfect for a picnic, “potluck,” or large family dinner.  

So until next time remember, “The sauce make the difference!”

Happy Father’s Day!

Dad at Lista’s in the 70’s

To honor my Dad, Vinnie Lista, on Father’s Day I wanted to share about one of his favorite meals:

Friday nights were the busiest nights at Lista’s since it was “Fish Fry” night.  Haddock fish fries were (and still are) one of the most popular menu items in our area.  In case you’re unfamiliar, a fish fry is typically a large fillet of Haddock, dipped in batter (or breaded) and deep fried, served with french fries, coleslaw, and tartar sauce.  At Lista’s you could also choose to have your haddock served with a side of spaghetti or rigatoni.

Dad catering in the 90’s

Since our family observed the Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays, we often had Friday dinner with Dad at the restaurant.  Some of us ate fish fry; some ate pasta, but Dad almost always ate a dish he created for himself, broiled haddock with lemon-butter sauce served over a bed of spaghetti.  “Delicioso!” as he would say.  We eventually put the dish on the Lista’s menu and called it Haddock ala Vincenzo.  Not as popular as a fish fry… but still it did assume a certain following over time.

Haddock ala Vincenzo

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield:  4 servings

Cooking spray (such as Pam)
2 lbs Fresh Haddock Fillets (skinless if available) in four portions
1 tsp Lista’s Seasoned Salt
1-2 TBSP lemon juice (bottled or fresh)
2 TBSP Butter – cut into small pieces
8 oz Dry Spaghetti – cooked per package directions to al dente
6 TBSP Butter – melted
1 TBSP Chopped Parsley
1/4 cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Additional Lemon wedges for serving

1.  Set oven rack about 6 inches from heat source and preheat oven’s broiler.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2.  Arrange haddock fillets on prepared baking sheet, sprinkle evenly with the seasoned salt and lemon juice, and dot with pieces of butter.
3.  Place prepared fish under preheated broiler and cook until fish is easily flaked with a fork, 6 to 8 minutes.
4.  In small saucepan melt remaining 6 TBSP butter and keep warm.
5.  Remove cooked fish from oven and pour any accumulated liquids into pan with melted butter, add chopped parsley and stir.
6.  Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti per package directions. Drain cooked pasta into a colander over sink – shaking off excess water.  Divide hot pasta equally between 4 serving plates.
7.  Place broiled haddock on each portion of pasta, pour some of the parsley butter sauce over each portion and top with grated Pecorino Romano.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Delicioso!

NOTE:  If you cook dairy free you can easily substitute olive oil for the butter and leave off the Romano cheese .  If using Gluten Free spaghetti my experience has been that GF pasta made with a blend of brown rice, quinoa, and corn flours is the best choice.  

So until next time remember, “The sauce make the difference!”