This spicy Italian American recipe comes from Utica, New York. Chicken Riggies are a delicious homemade comfort food, consisting of chicken cooked with hot peppers in a creamy and spicy tomato sauce served over rigatoni.
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My family loves pasta – and this is one of our favorite pasta recipes. This easy recipe combines pasta, chicken and hot cherry peppers in rich, creamy tomato sauce for a delicious combination of flavors.
What are Chicken Riggies?
Chicken Riggies are also called Utica Riggies and are a traditional Italian-American dish that comes from the Utica area of Upstate New York. The origin of the dish isn’t really known, and it has lots of variations, but it always includes rigatoni, chicken and a creamy tomato sauce and it is almost always hot and spicy. In the Syracuse and Utica area it is served in almost every Italian restaurant and frequently paired with a side of Utica Greens.
How to Make Chicken Riggies
Although the ingredient list for this recipe looks long it is actually a straight forward and easy to make dish. The total cooking time is less than 30 minutes, which makes it ideal for a busy weeknight meal for the family.
The first step is to start the water boiling for the rigatoni pasta so that it is ready when the chicken riggie sauce is done. Then the chicken thighs are browned in a skillet and set aside to finish cooking later.
Onions and peppers are in almost every recipe for Chicken Riggies, but I like to include mushrooms too. They make the dish more robust and I always try to get as many vegetables as possible into my dinners. The onions, mushrooms and peppers are sauteed in a skillet until they are soft, and then the chicken is added back in along with some garlic and salt.
Hot pickled cherry peppers are the authentic way to add spiciness to the dish. These aren’t an ingredient that will be in every pantry, but they are worth getting just for this dish (and Utica Greens, which also uses them.) The pickled cherry peppers are spicy and combine beautifully with the creaminess of the tomato sauce. You can easily use up the rest of the jar of peppers by adding them to sandwiches. I use five hot cherry peppers in this dish, which is perfect for my family, but if you like things really spicy you can add more or add some crushed red pepper to amp up the taste even more.
After the pickled hot peppers are added the tomato sauce is made from a can of crushed tomatoes and some heavy cream. The riggie sauce is then mixed with the rigatoni and garnished with olives and cheese.
- 1 pound riganoti
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound boneless chicken thighs (or breasts)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 12 ounces mushrooms chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 5 hot pickled cherry peppers chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper optional
- 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup black olives sliced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat while you make the chicken and sauce. Cook the rigatoni until it reaches desired doneness and keep warm until the rest of the dish is complete.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and then cook for 5 minutes, turning to brown on each side. Remove the chicken and let cook slightly.
- Meanwhile, add the chopped green pepper, mushrooms and onions to the skillet and cook for 5 minutes.
- Chop the chicken thighs and return to the skillet, along with the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the hot pickled cherry peppers, salt, red pepper and can of crushed tomatoes. Stir to mix and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Mix in the heavy cream and cook 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Stir in the cooked and drained rigatoni and serve, garnished with sliced black olives and Parmesan cheese.
- I use chicken thighs in this dish because my family strongly prefers them. But of course chicken breasts work also. In addition I sometimes make this with leftover roasted or grilled chicken, which makes it come together even more quickly and is a great way to do something different with leftovers. If you are using already cooked chicken I’d wait and add it when you add the heavy cream so it doesn’t get dried out.
- If you want to make a “cheater” version of the chicken riggie sauce you can use a jar of Vodka sauce instead of using the tomatoes and cream. It isn’t authentic or quite the same, but it is still tasty! Just make sure you add the hot cherry peppers for their distinctive taste.