Chicken Riggies

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!Every part of the country has it’s unique contributions to the food scene.  I grew up on Lowcountry recipes from the South Carolina coast and Cajun recipes from south Louisiana, and I often return to these recipes as they are comfort food to me.  It’s hard to beat a good chicken and sausage gumbo on a cold winter day!  Likewise, Mardi Gras season always leads to a craving for cinnamon King Cake.  (Mental note: I really need to update those photos!  The recipes are excellent.  The photos are not.  I’ll get around to that one day…maybe when Robbie turns 18.)

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!In our travels, we’ve come across a bunch of fun new recipes that I’ve slowly added to this virtual recipe box that I call a blog.  And today we add a new one.  Chicken Riggies.  Have you ever heard of Riggies?  No?  Chicken Riggies are wildly popular in the Utica area of central New York.  (In fact, Chicken Riggies are sometimes called Utica Riggies.)  Like much of the regional cuisine in this part of the country, Riggies rely heavily on an Italian influence.  Le’ts admit it: the name isn’t very original.  Chicken Riggies is a pasta dish (rigatoni!) served with chicken.  But don’t let that fool you!  Chicken Riggies are anything but boring.  Plus, it’s kinda fun to say Riggies.

Like most regional recipes, there is much debate on the origin of Chicken Riggies.  Everyone has a favorite family version that has been passed down for years.  And now we do, too!  One of the most distinguishing characteristics of Riggies is the use of a tomato cream sauce.  Laura and I were out to dinner last week, and I was telling her that I much prefer a standard tomato sauce over a tomato cream sauce.  Then I turned around and made Riggies for dinner.  She was all like, “But…but…but.”  And I was all like, “But Riggies.”

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!I first discovered Riggies when I went with my buddies to a curling tournament in Utica last year.  Nearly every person in our club told me I had to try chicken riggies while I was there.  I dutifully did as I was told, and I was hooked!  Chicken Riggies are packed with flavor, and they make for a fun twist on pasta night around our house.

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!Aside from the tomato cream sauce (which is silly easy to make), Chicken Riggies often include sweet or hot cherry peppers.  I’ve never cooked with hot cherry peppers before, but I grabbed a jar from the store the other day.  Conveniently, the only jar of hot peppers they had was huge.  I say ‘conveniently’ with a bit of sarcasm as I only needed 3-4 peppers for this recipe.  I was thinking “What the heck am I going to do with the rest of these hot peppers now?”  Well the answer is make more Chicken Riggies.  Seriously.  It’s delicious!  (On a side note, I found 4 peppers brought plenty of heat to this recipe, but we like spicy food.  Feel free to adjust to your tastes, or just use sweet cherry peppers instead.)

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!Finally, I must note that while we enjoyed the chicken, we felt it wasn’t really needed.  Sure, Chicken Riggies without the chicken just become Riggies, but I’m ok with that.  The sauce and the hot cherry peppers bring so much flavor that the chicken kinda gets lost.  In fact, Laura even suggested that we use ground Italian sausage next time.  Sausage Riggies?  I’m not sure that’s a thing (and I’m sure the mere thought offends half the population of upstate New York), but I’m just saying it would be delicious.  Cheers, friends!

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!

Chicken Riggies

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 692kcal

Ingredients

For the Marinade

  • ½ cup dry sherry
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

For the Chicken Riggies

  • 1 16-oz. box rigatoni pasta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped into ½” pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped into ½” pieces
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 2-5 hot or sweet cherry peppers seeded and chopped (depending on taste) (see note)
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • {for garnish} fresh Italian parsley chopped

Instructions

  • Using a large, resealable bag, add all ingredients for Marinade (dry sherry, olive oil, garlic, oregano and chicken). Refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
  • Cook rigatoni pasta in salted, boiling water for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain pasta and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, place olive oil in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet and place over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade (discard excess marinade) and place in Dutch oven. Cook, stirring occasionally, until full cooked (~8-10 minutes); remove chicken and set aside.
  • Using same Dutch oven, add butter and place over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, add bell peppers, onion, garlic and cherry peppers. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often, or until onions have begun to soften.
  • Add chicken stock, crushed tomatoes and salt; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked chicken, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese; stir and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve chicken and sauce over cooked rigatoni.
  • {Optional} Garnish with chopped fresh parsley before serving.

Notes

If hot cherry peppers aren’t available in your area, use crushed red peppers flakes in the sauce instead. Just be mindful of how much you use!

An upstate New York classic, Chicken Riggies are a delicious twist for pasta night!

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30 Comments

  1. Until today, I had never heard of Chicken Riggies or Utica Riggies! And, I gotta say, this is one flavor-packed dish -especially with those canned hot cherry peppers! You mentioned leaving out the chicken – and I can see that, though I might leave out the pasta – what would that make this? hmmm 🙂 On a serious note, think Laura is onto something: y’all could be pioneers of sausage riggies, beef riggies, salmon riggis, lamb riggis… the list can keep on going – eh?

    1. So I had definitely never heard of Chicken Riggies before moving up here, Shashi. And even once we moved here, it still took a couple of years before I heard about this recipe. But holy cow is it good! Leaving out the pasta entirely, eh? I’m not sure, but hey anything is worth a shot. But you can’t really make Chicken Riggies without the Riggies…haha! The flavors would all still be there, though. 🙂 Thanks, Shashi!

  2. I’ve heard of chicken riggies! But I’ve never actually eaten them–chicken-less riggies sounds more like my thing. And you have me thinking, what exactly does my hometown bring to the culinary table? We’re best known for hash brownies and awesome vegan food I think. Nothing with a name that’s as fun as chicken riggies though!

    1. Well of course you’ve heard of Riggies…you used to live in this area! And as I mentioned in the post, I think the chicken is not really even needed in this dish…there’s so much going on there in terms of flavors. And it’s so good!! So Phoenix Vegan Hashies? Is that a thing? Let’s hope not. Haha!

    1. Haha! I had minor palpitations when I looked back at those old posts. And I totally remember being so proud of those photos when I took them. It’s funny to think how much we’ve grown. I love food photography…there’s always something new to learn and experiment with! 🙂 Thanks so much, Manali!

  3. I’ve never heard of “Riggies”, but being a smart guy, I immediately thought it was related to rigatoni (All right, your pictures helped me too). Love this dish – simple, fragrant, and not too heavy. And those old pictures…I get it. I’ve started updating mine too. Good we don’t have our “Robbie” yet as it’s a HUUUUGE amount of work 😉

    1. Haha! You are indeed right that Riggies are related to rigatoni. And this recipe is a winner, Ben. It is SO darn good. Seriously. Laura and I both commented that we could eat this every week and not get tired of it. Also, old pictures. Finding time to go back and retake those is like finding a 4-leaf clover. (Hint: It’s rare!)

  4. Sausage Riggies sounds fabulous too 🙂 Love pasta nights, just the perfect comfort food especially on those rainy, grey days we are experiencing at the moment here in London. I like a bit of spice but not too much so I might have to adjust the recipe a little and how nice that you can make it with as well as without chicken. Have a wonderful weekend, David!

    1. You know, I think pasta nights are even better on rainy, grey days. There’s just something so comforting about sitting down with a bowl of tasty pasta. So these Chicken Riggies are seriously delicious, Miriam! We have a good friend who says she just leaves the hot peppers out as she’s not a fan of spicy food. And I truly think you could omit the chicken, too. I mean it’s good, but the other flavors take center stage on this one. Thanks so much, and I hope you and your family have a great weekend ahead, too, my friend!

  5. So, Chicken Riggies? Well I’ve never heard of it before David, but I’m mighty glad that you’ve introduced it to me today! This is a splendid dish, packed full of flavour and as you say definitely a REAL comfort food. Yum yum from me and pinned!

    1. I hadn’t heard of chicken riggies until we moved up here, either…but they are delicious! I was a little skeptical at first, but not anymore. This is one of our favorite pasta meals now. Thanks so much, Neil!!

    1. Yes! Isn’t it just fun to say Riggies? Haha! And this Chicken Riggies recipe is delicious, Kathy. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and it’s now a family favorite here! 🙂

  6. Ground sausage sounds like a wonderful suggestion! Do it!! We love our heat too so loving this one and would make as is. Plus, like you said, how fun is it to say ‘riggies’. Never heard of it before, but now when I see rigatoni that’s what I’ll think of 😉 P.S. I think we all have pics we need to update, lol. Have a wonderful weekend to you and the fam, David!

    1. I totally agree, Dawn…I think Sausage Riggies needs to be a thing. I’ve been craving some good Italian sausage lately, so I might just need to make that happen. What about a combo of ground and sliced? Yum! Hope you have a great weekend yourself, my friend! 🙂

  7. Confession: this is the first I’ve heard of ‘riggies’. But now that I know what it is I WANT IT – especially in this creamy, delicious sauce!

    1. Yes! Put Riggies on your menu, Marissa! This recipe has so much flavor in it…it’s perfect for one of those “curl up on the couch” kinda nights. Thanks!

    1. You need to be introduced to Riggies, Jeff! I seem to recall that you guys have family out in western New York, too? I’m surprised they haven’t introduced you to Riggies! (Although, to be fair, Riggies are more central New York…like the Utica area.) Either way, this is one killer pasta recipe!

  8. I’ve heard of Chicken Riggies but never had the chance to try it. Thanks for the recipe! (Those cherry peppers must be really popular Upstate, they seen ti make their way into a lot of local Italian-inspired recipes like the famous Utica Greens. May explain why they’re sold in bulk..

    1. Chicken Riggies are SO good, Frank. I’d never heard of ’em until we moved up here to upstate New York, but they’re on a regular rotation in our house now. All of the flavors combine so well! And you even know about Utica Greens, too! 🙂 But, yes, I think you’ve nailed it as to why you can only buy those hot peppers in huge jars. Haha! Now I need to try my hand at making Utica Greens sometime.

  9. Heck yeah that’s my kind of dish. Creamy tomato sauce just sounds amazing. Everytime I read chicken riggies it just rolls right off the tounge. Original or not that’s a fun name to say!

    Looks so yummy, I love having those sweet hot peppers in a dish, super good. Thanks for sharing, hope ya weekend is going well!

    1. Chicken Riggies does just roll off the tongue. Such a catchy phrase for such a simple dish. But the flavors in this pasta recipe…oh man. They’re SO good, Matt! Our weekend did indeed go well. Busy as I had the in-laws in town, but still a good weekend. Now I need a break though, but it’s Monday morning. Haha! Hope you guys had a great weekend, too!

    1. Oh Chicken Riggies really are the perfect comfort food, Mary! I mean it’s pasta, so you’re off to a good start there. And then add in all of those flavors? Yum! 🙂 Thanks so much, my friend!

  10. Wow, David – I had forgotten all about Chicken Riggis, I’ve made it once, copying from Rachael Ray – no recipe, just watched the show and scribbled down the ingredients! So I appreciate the reminder, and the recipe! Thanks!

    1. Yes! I am so glad Riggies are back on your radar, Laura. They’re SO good! We didn’t know anything about Riggies until we moved up here, but they are definitely on our regular pasta rotation now. Yum!

  11. Thank you for the recipes look forward to cooking everything for me and my wife I love cooking and my wife loves eating my food and I look forward to getting more of the recipes your site is amazing thank you very March

    1. Hey Robert! Thank so much for stopping by and commenting. I hope you enjoy this Chicken Riggies recipe. Feel free to use the Recipe Index tab to find other fun recipes, too. And don’t be a stranger! If you make a recipe, let me know what you think! 🙂

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