Chicken Riggies

If you have ever been to Upstate New York you likely to be familiar with Chicken Riggies.  This is one of those great regional American recipes that seems to have evolved over time and become ubiquitous.  Every time I go to visit family I try to get my hands on this Italian American dish that is simultaneously sweet, spicy, creamy and satisfying.  Since today is my dear Aunt Janice’s birthday I thought it would be fitting to take a stab at my own version of this Upstate classic in her honor.  She has been one of my best cheerleaders during this blog and even got me my very own A Capitol Contessa apron!

This isn’t a light dish but those folks in Syracuse and Rochester deserve some hearty comfort food given the winters they have to endure.  I have searched and searched for lots of different versions – just like most American dishes people take the base recipe and make it their own.  Rachel Ray (Upstate New York girl) has done a version on her show that I have tried but it didn’t quite do it justice.  Some sleuthing found that the addition of sherry really adds a subtle sweetness that is great with the hot peppers and cream.  I also tossed in some spicy arugula at the very end to add some green (that cancels out the cream right?) and add another layer of flavor.  Happy birthday Auntie Jan – sending lots and lots of love your way.

Oh and apologies for not posting on Wednesday – I was traveling internationally for work and didn’t quite get my act together.  It was my first missed post which I think is pretty good but I promise I won’t make a habit out of it!


Chicken Riggies

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (or approximately 10 mini bell peppers), sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or less if you don’t want it as spicy)
  • 6 to 8 hot pickled peppers (like pepadews), sliced
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 pound rigatoni (riggies!)
  • a couple handfuls of arugula
  • grated parmesan

Heat the largest skillet you have over medium high heat and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the pieces are browned and just about cooked through.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and add more oil if you need it.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper.  Sauté until the onions and peppers soften and they take on a little color, about 5 minutes.  Add the pickled peppers and cook for 1 minute.

Use the sherry to deglaze the pan and cook down for another minute or until most of the sherry has cooked off.  Carefully add the crushed tomatoes (try not to splatter yourself) and chicken, then stir everything together until combined.  Meanwhile boil water and cook the rigatoni in salted water until tender, about 7 minutes.  While the pasta is cooking let the sauce cook down over a low simmer.  Add the cream to the sauce, stirring it in until everything is nice and pink.  Drain the pasta and stir it all together (if your pan isn’t big enough just pour the sauce over the rigatoni in a larger bowl).

Stir in the arugula so it wilts into the dish and serve with parmesan.


  1. Lucille says:

    I think Chicken Riggies must be Upstate Eastern New York because my Italian American godmother who lives in Jamestown, NY never made us this dish. We’re visiting her in two weeks and at age 94 she will make us a complete 5 course Italian dinner – all from scratch, even the pasta. I’ll ask her if she has ever heard of Chicken Riggies. I don’t like rigatoni but the sauce looks so good I’ll try it with another pasta.

    Made the arugula pesto potato salad and will serve it to guests this weekend. Pesto and potatoes are delicious. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never tried baby Yukon gold potatoes before. They’re sweet and wonderful and I ate them plain with no pesto.


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