Chicken Riggies

Rigatoni...With Chicken

Chicken Riggies

What Are Chicken Riggies?

Chicken Riggies are a popular Italian-American pasta dish native to Utica, New York. It typically consists of chicken, rigatoni (the “riggies”), and a spicy tomato-cream sauce. The sauce often includes bell peppers, onions, and sometimes hot peppers, giving the dish a distinctive, flavorful kick. This dish is a beloved regional specialty, known for its comforting, hearty nature and its blend of creamy and spicy flavors.

Ingredients For Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggie Ingredients


1 Yellow Onion

8 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms

2 Cloves of Garlic

2 Tbsp Olive Oil


1 Cup Heavy Cream

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese

2 Tbsp Butter


2 Cups Italian Dressing

16 oz Rigatoni

15 oz Tomato Sauce

8 oz Cherry Peppers

3 oz Black Olives


3 Chicken Breasts


1/2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Tsp Pepper

How To Make Chicken Riggies

Step 1

Cook & Cut Chicken



Marinating the Chicken


  • Begin with high-quality, boneless skinless chicken breasts. These are essential as they absorb the rich flavors from the marinade and other ingredients, significantly contributing to the dish’s overall taste.


  • Place the chicken in a container. Using forks, gently poke the chicken. This technique allows the chicken to better absorb the flavors of the marinade.




  • Generously cover the chicken with Italian dressing. The dressing, a blend of herbs, spices, and acidic components like vinegar, is key to infusing the chicken with a zesty and robust flavor. The oil in the dressing ensures the chicken remains juicy during cooking.


  • Ensure the chicken is fully submerged in the dressing for an even marinade. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to penetrate deeply.



Marinating chicken in Italian dressing is effective for flavor enhancement and tenderization. The dressing’s blend of herbs, spices, and acidic components like vinegar adds a rich flavor and tenderizes the meat. The oil in the dressing helps retain moisture, keeping the chicken juicy during cooking.



Cooking the Chicken:


  • Cook the marinated chicken in a preheated skillet over medium-high heat. Add a touch of oil to prevent sticking. The chicken should sizzle as it hits the pan, signaling the right temperature.


  • As it cooks, the marinade will start to caramelize, creating a beautiful golden-brown crust. This crust is not just visually appealing but also packed with flavor.


  • Cook each side for about 6-7 minutes. The goal is a fully cooked chicken that is golden brown and oozing with juiciness.



  • After cooking, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest. This resting period is crucial as it allows the juices to redistribute within the meat, ensuring each bite is succulent and flavorful.



  • Once rested, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. These should be small enough to meld seamlessly into the dish while still being large enough to provide a satisfying texture and flavor.


I like my chicken small, but cut them how you prefer.

Step 2

Prep Produce



Preparing Vegetables:


  • Fresh produce is vital in creating the depth of flavor that this dish is known for. Start with mushrooms, a key ingredient in this dish. They should be thoroughly washed to remove any dirt or debris. After washing, pat them dry and slice them. Mushrooms, with their earthy flavor and meaty texture, add a heartiness to the dish that balances well with the other ingredients.



  • Onions are next. Slice them into thin strips. The onions will caramelize as they cook, adding a sweetness that complements the savory elements of the dish. This caramelization process is key to building the flavor foundation of the sauce.


  • Mincing garlic is the next step. Garlic, with its strong and pungent flavor, is a staple in Italian cooking and adds a depth of flavor that is unmistakable.

Step 3

Make Sauce



Sautéing and Building the Sauce Base:


  • The sauce is where the magic happens. Begin by sautéing the sliced mushrooms and onions in the same large pan as the chicken, which should still have some brown bits clinging to the pan. These bits are packed with flavor and will infuse the sauce with a delicious depth.




  • Soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and caramelize. This step not only enhances their natural sweetness but also adds a complex flavor to the sauce.


  • Once the vegetables are soft and golden, add the minced garlic. Be vigilant at this stage; garlic cooks quickly and can turn bitter if burnt. It should be fragrant but not browned.



  • Introduce the hot cherry peppers next. These peppers, often a defining ingredient in this dish, provide a unique balance of sweetness and heat. They add a layer of complexity that is distinctive to this dish.


I went with Mezetta Sliced Hot Cherry Peppers.


While some Chicken Riggie recipes include red bell peppers for added flavor and color, I personally lean towards omitting them from my version.


  • Season the mixture with salt and black pepper. This is essential for enhancing all the flavors in the sauce.



  • Now, pour in the tomato sauce. The tomato sauce, chosen for its balanced acidity and richness, creates a harmonious blend with the sautéed vegetables and spices. Allow this mixture to simmer, letting the flavors meld together. The simmering process thickens the sauce, preparing it to coat the pasta perfectly.


  • Tomato Sauce Versus Alternatives: While some versions of the recipe might call for crushed tomatoes, or a combination of tomato paste and white wine for added depth, our preference leans towards tomato sauce for its straightforward approach. Tomato sauce, milder and often pre-seasoned, simplifies the cooking process, offering a consistent, rich flavor and smooth texture. It enhances the dish without the complexity of balancing multiple flavor components.



  • Gradually stir in heavy cream. The cream transforms the sauce, adding a luxurious texture and richness, softening the acidity of the tomato sauce, and creating a velvety consistency.



  • After the cream, add grated Parmesan cheese. This cheese is not just a garnish; it’s an integral part of the sauce, contributing a nutty, salty depth that elevates the dish’s overall flavor profile.




  • Finally, stir in the olives. Olives, often overlooked, bring a briny, salty element to the dish, adding another layer of complexity.



Combining with Chicken:


  • The last step in the sauce-making process is adding the cooked, bite-sized chicken. Let everything simmer together, allowing the chicken to soak up the flavors of the sauce and for all the ingredients to become fully integrated.

Step 4

Cook Pasta



Cooking Rigatoni


  • Pasta is a crucial component for this dish, and choosing the right type is important. Rigatoni, with its large tubes and ridges, is ideal for this dish as it holds onto the sauce well, ensuring each bite is flavorful.


Similar to the Vodka Rigatoni, we’re going with Marias Pasta Shop for their incredible…pasta.


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it until it reaches an al dente texture. This means the pasta should be tender but still firm to the bite, offering a pleasing texture contrast to the rich sauce.



  • Before draining the pasta, it’s important to reserve some of the pasta water. This starchy water is a secret weapon in Italian cooking. It can be used to adjust the sauce’s thickness and improve its adherence to the pasta.



Combining Pasta and Sauce:


  • Strain the rigatoni and add it directly to the sauce. If the sauce appears too thick, use some of the reserved pasta water to achieve the desired consistency.


Adding pasta water to sauce is a useful kitchen tip. It thickens the sauce, helping it stick to the pasta and making it creamier. The starch in the water also helps to mix oil-based sauces well and blend the pasta and sauce flavors without weakening the taste. Plus, the warm water keeps the dish at a nice serving temperature.


  • Strain the rigatoni and add it directly to the sauce. If the sauce appears too thick, use some of the reserved pasta water to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Season with salt and pepper, then allow the dish to simmer gently for a while longer, letting the flavors deepen and meld together beautifully.

Step 5

Enjoy Your Chicken Riggies!


Chicken Riggies


  • To serve, plate your Chicken Riggies while hot. The rich sauce, tender chicken, and perfectly cooked pasta come together in a celebration of flavors and textures, ideal for any gathering or cozy night in.


  • Garnish with freshly chopped parsley for a burst of color and a fresh, herbaceous flavor. This not only adds a visual appeal but also a light, aromatic freshness that complements the rich flavors of the dish.



Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights


Tim “Riggs” Riggins


More About Chicken Riggies

Chicken Riggies is a popular dish in Central New York, particularly around Utica-Rome, with Italian-American roots. It combines Italian cooking methods with American ingredients like chicken, rigatoni pasta, and a creamy or spicy tomato sauce.


This dish likely evolved from traditional Italian recipes, adjusted to local tastes and ingredients in upstate New York. The use of rigatoni and creamy tomato sauce reflects its Italian origins, while the addition of spicy peppers adds an American flair.


The exact beginning is unclear for this dish, but it has grown into a community favorite, with each local chef adding their own touch. Today, Chicken Riggies is more than just a local dish; it’s a symbol of regional pride and heritage, celebrated at food festivals in Central New York.


A personal recommendation for Chicken Riggies is Bella Regina in the Utica area.

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