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How To Make Utica’s Chicken Riggies Recipe

This Chicken riggies recipe from Utica, in upstate NY is an Italian American dish.  Made with roasted red peppers and hot cherry peppers, plus big chunks of chicken in a spicy tomato cream sauce, make these Utica riggies a tasty dinner!

Chicken Riggies

Chicken riggies has been on my bucket list to make for a very long time.

There is something about the addition of a jar of hot cherry peppers and roasted red peppers added to big fat rigatonis that just appealed to me.

So last spring, I found myself making these chicken riggies not once, but twice!

I love the tangy spiciness of the hot cherry peppers and the richness that red peppers add.

With garlic and butter and heavy cream; this pasta dish becomes a real crowd pleaser. 

Actually it became a Manservant request. He loves this pasta and my man is not really a pasta lover. Much to my regret.

Perfect for a family dinner, perfect to gift to new mothers; this chicken riggie pasta is what I brought to Zoe’s friend who needed a bit of supper after having her second baby.

Italian food is comfort food and not having to worry about dinner sure takes a load off, does it not? 

So,if you find yourself in the Utica area of Upstate New York,and you want to try the real thing, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the local specialty dish – Chicken Riggies. 

This Italian-American classic has become a symbol of comfort food in the region, and who doesn’t love comfort food?

Origin of Utica Chicken Riggies:

Chicken Riggies have a rich history rooted in the Utica area’s Italian influence. 

Many credit the Chesterfield Restaurant for popularizing this flavorful pasta dish. 

Originally created with a tomato-based sauce, it has evolved into various versions, with some featuring a spicy kick that locals adore.

All that being said, it is still not certain who created the original recipe.

Why is this dish called Chicken Riggies?

Rigatoni is the pasta called for so riggies it becomes. However ziti or penne or any other appropriate shape will work.

Ingredients You’ll Need:

  • Rigatoni Pasta
  • Chicken Breasts or Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Roasted Red Bell Peppers
  • Hot Cherry Peppers Or Sweet Cherry Peppers
  • Pepperoncini, Salami or Pepperoni (optional)
  • Canned Whole Tomatoes
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Heavy Cream
  • Dry Sherry
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese or Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh Basil
  • Butter
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Black Pepper

Chicken Riggies in cast iron skillet

How to Make This Chicken Riggies Recipe from Utica:

1. Preparing the Chicken:

  • Cut chicken breasts or thighs into bite-sized pieces.
  • Season with salt, and black pepper.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, cook chicken in olive oil until browned and fully cooked.

2. Sautéing the Peppers:

  • Add roasted red peppers, and hot cherry peppers, and a garlic clove, to the chicken in the skillet.
  • For an extra kick, include red pepper flakes.
  • Feel free to stir in some pepperoni or salami, though both of these deviate from the traditional recipe.

3. Creating the Sauce:

  • Add olive oil to skillet and stir in minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Do not brown.
  • Add the whole and diced tomatoes. (Squeeze the whole tomatoes and smush them good, so they break down in the sauce.)
  • Add sherry that has been mixed with water to the tomato mixture.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer, then add the butter and basil and let simmer while the pasta water comes to a boil.

4. Making the Creamy Base:

  • Pour in heavy cream to create a luscious, creamy tomato sauce.
  • Sprinkle in red pepper flakes for heat.
  • Add Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, and stir so it won’t sink to the bottom and stick to the pan.
  • Add the chicken mixture to the sauce and let simmer while the rigatoni cooks.

5. Combining with Pasta:

  • Cook rigatoni pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to package instructions.
  • Reserve some pasta water before draining.

6. Bringing it All Together:

  • Toss the cooked pasta with the chicken and pepper mixture.
  • If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water to achieve the desired consistency.

7. Garnishing and Serving:

  • Finish with a generous sprinkle of fresh basil and additional cheese.
  • Serve hot, and enjoy the delightful medley of flavors.

chicken riggies recipe in cast iron skillet

Tips for the Best Chicken Riggies:

  1. Choose the Right Peppers:
    • The combination of sweet and hot peppers is what gives Chicken Riggies their distinctive flavor. Adjust the spice level based on your taste buds.
  2. Spice Level Control:
    • Control the spice level by regulating the number of hot peppers and red pepper flakes. Aim for a satisfying kick without overwhelming heat.
  3. Side Dishes to serve with Chicken Riggies:
  4. Explore Variations:
    • While the classic recipe is beloved, don’t hesitate to explore variations. Some versions incorporate mushrooms or white wine instead of sherry for added depth. Instead of chicken, try Italian sausage. I love pepperoni or salami for extra umami. And if you want more cheese, chunks of mozzarella stirred in are also tasty!

Bringing Utica Chicken Riggies to Your Table:

Whether you’re a fan of spicy food or prefer a milder version, Chicken Riggies offer a delightful medley of flavors that will leave you craving more. 

Enjoy this Utica dish with your family and friends – it’s the perfect dish for pasta night! 

This pasta dish can be frozen as a casserole, but honestly I’ve never gotten that far.

As for us, just being two people, I can tell you that this is easily reheated in the microwave in individual portions.

If the pasta starts to become dry, feel free to stir in more marinara or cream to perk it right up. 

And don’t worry about making another sauce, just use your favorite jarred variety, preferably a chunky version with lots of garlic!

We all need ways to simplify, right?

chicken riggies recipe in cast iron skillet with blue napkin

How to use jarred marinara sauce to make this chicken riggies recipe:

In fact, if you want an easy way to make this recipe I suggest using jarred marinara the whole way through.

But don’t skip the sherry or butter or cream. Rao’s marinara is my fave and I find it at Costco.

Heat it up and then add the sherry. When ready add the butter and basil. 

Check for salt, and pepper and at the end stir in the cheese and cream.

Want to jazz this up even more? 

Stir in some Italian sausage or pepperoni or Calabrese salami. 

All totally optional, as there is plenty of chicken, but those all add even more flavor.

Want more cheese? Stir in chunks of fresh mozzarella and watch it melt a bit. Or place the pasta in a casserole dish and bake it with cheese on top.

Chicken Riggies in White Baking Dish

If you do it this way, you may want more cream in the sauce because as the pasta heats up again it will soak up the sauce.  

But nothing wrong with more cream, right?

I’ve never had chicken riggies-the real version- but I can tell you they do not add extra cheese to the actual dish. 

Every recipe I’ve seen just contains the Pecorino or Parmesan that is stirred into the sauce.

However when reheating, especially as a casserole, I like the addition of extra cheese on top, like mozzarella cheese!

I have no doubt there are many versions of chicken riggies.

My guess is I’ll continue to keep adjusting this spicy tomato sauce with chicken and peppers every time I make it.

One thing though that I know for sure-however I make this this Italian dish it is one the whole family will always enjoy!

So, if you have pasta lovers among your family or friends, be sure to turn them on to this tasty dish.

Since I’m not in Utica, I figure this is about the next best thing to being there!




Chicken Riggies

Need a Few More?

Ziti Al Fresco

Ziti Al Fresco also has a spicy, creamy tomato sauce but instead of chicken it is made with Italian sausage and sun dried tomatoes. 

Ziti Al Fresco with Italian Sausage, Sun dried Tomatoes and Cream

Spicy Fried Spaghetti Pancakes

Leftover spaghetti is perfect for making spaghetti pancakes. Treat these like you would chicken parmesan or just top with sausage and sauce!

Fried Spaghetti Pancake with sausage

Pork Shoulder Ragu

Pork Ragu Italian Dinner ideas

This post contains affiliate links form which I may or may not be paid a small commission at no cost to you!

This is an updated post from 2020.

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Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies Pasta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 45 Minutes
  • Total Time: 45 to 60 Minutes
  • Yield: 4 - 8 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Italian


Chicken riggies is an Italian American pasta dish made with roasted peppers, hot cherry peppers, some cream and butter. It is very good!


Units Scale

Marinara Sauce:

2 T olive oil

4 smashed and chopped garlic cloves

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1 14 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 c sherry cooking wine mixed with one cup of water

4 T butter

8 basil leaves

1/2 t coarse salt

1 c finely grated Pecorino Romano plus more for serving

1/4 c heavy cream plus more if you want a thinner sauce

Chicken Mixture:

2 T of extra virgin olive oil

2 lbs chicken breast cut into medium chunks

2 large roasted red peppers (from the jar, sliced into 1″ pieces) Using more does not hurt!

1 jar of hot cherry peppers roughly chopped, about 78 or a 16 oz jar

1 smashed and minced garlic clove

6 standard slices spicy Calabrese salami or pepperoni (optional)

1 T pepperoncini (optional)

1 lb rigatoni, cooked al dente according to package directions


Prepare the tomato sauce:

In a large pot heat 4  smashed and chopped garlic cloves with 2 T of extra virgin olive oil on low heat. Do not brown the garlic as it will taste bitter. Add the whole tomatoes and squeeze them with your hands while adding. Stir in diced tomatoes. Add sherry mixed with water. Simmer for a few minutes.

Add the butter, basil and coarse salt. Simmer on low heat while sauteing the chicken.

Start the water for the rigatoni while sauteing chicken.

Prepare the chicken mixture:

In a large skillet saute the chicken chunks in 2 T of olive oil. When the chicken is almost browned, stir in the roasted red peppers, hot cherry peppers, one minced garlic clove, salami and pepperoncini and saute a few more minutes to blend.

Now stir the Pecorino Romano cheese and the heavy cream into the tomato sauce. Do not stir it in earlier as the cheese has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot. If your sauce is chunky and you prefer it more smooth, feel free to use a potato masher or an immersion blender to get the sauce to the consistency you prefer. Personally, I like the tomato chunks for flavor and texture.

Combine the chicken mixture with the tomato sauce and simmer for 10 minutes. while preparing rigatoni.

According to package directions, cook rigatoni al dente.

Drain and stir rigatoni into the sauce. Serve with additional grated cheese and red pepper flakes.


Chicken Riggies can also be placed in a casserole dish, topped with mozzarella, and baked or the top broiled for a few minutes, until the cheese melts. OR, stir in chunks of fresh mozzarella before serving.

This also reheats quite nicely in a casserole dish topped with cheese.

Feel free to add more sauce and grated cheese on the side along with some red pepper flakes for sprinkling.

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Thursday 22nd of October 2020

Close but it's not truly riggies. The sauce is made with plain tomato sauce as jar marinara gives it an off flavor. Heavy cream, grated parmesan cheese, white wine, minced garlic, Italian seasoning, and of course cherry peppers which is where the flavor comes from (adding a bit of the pepper juice gives more flavor). Most of the time you add fresh bell pepper, onion, black olives, and mushrooms. These are usually served chunky. No roasted red peppers. There are different types of meat used in it depending on the cook but aside from chicken we use steak, bulk Italian sausage, and shrimp. Of course anyone can alter a recipe but those are what's most commonly found in riggies if you are from upstate ny. Some prefer a light pink sauce which is heavy on cheese and cream light on tomato sauce to heavy tomato sauce light on cream. Some prefer less spicy so you add less cherry peppers.

Susan Strasburg

Wednesday 14th of October 2020

I've never had it but it sure looks great! My hubby would love the hot peppers.

Healthy World Cuisine

Saturday 10th of October 2020

Love the idea of baking it at the end to get all those crispy bits on the top. The cooler weather is coming. Bring on the comfort food!

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)

Thursday 8th of October 2020

Your photos in this post made me instantly hungry! Looks so good Abbe. I think all of America needs a big bowl of pasta right now.

mimi rippee

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

I have never ever heard of this! But it sure looks good. Very tasty and comforting.