This Chicken Riggies recipe is a New York favorite for a flavorful, quick, and satisfying meal of succulent chicken and comforting rigatoni pasta in a creamy tomato sauce filled with sweet and spicy flavors, with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs to finish!
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One of my favorite parts of my American Eats series is discovering new family favorites while researching regional culinary trends. That's how I discovered chicken riggies, which comes from the Italian-American communities of the Utica-Rome region of Central New York.
Marrying the flavors of Italian seasoning with the spiciness of hot cherry peppers, this dish truly represents a blend of cultures and has become a staple in many households and local restaurants throughout the state. And it's a new favorite in ours as well, since Paul and the girls all gave it five stars and two thumbs up!
It's practically one-pot and ready from start to finish in right around 40 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight meal. And the leftovers are every bit as delicious the next day. For a full upstate NY meal, try serving them with our Utica Greens!
For more comforting one-pot pasta recipes, check out my One Pot Bruschetta Chicken Pasta, TikTok Baked Feta Pasta, Easy Lemon Pasta, Cajun Pasta with Sausage and Peppers, and these Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells!
Why We Love This Recipe
- Adjust the heat to your liking with hot cherry peppers or even a dash of hot sauce. For a milder version, opt for sweet bell peppers or adjust the red pepper flakes to your taste.
- This dish is outstandingly delicious but only requires simple ingredients to make.
- Chicken Riggies can be whipped up in under an hour, so it's perfect for a busy weeknight meal for the whole family!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Rigatoni Pasta - The 'riggies' in this dish hold onto the sauce well and provides that satisfying bite.
- Chicken - Boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs are ideal. Thighs tend to be juicier, while breasts are leaner. Both work wonderfully.
- Salt & Pepper - Use kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the chicken before cooking it for extra flavor.
- Olive Oil - For sautéing the chicken and vegetables. This lends a rich flavor and ensures everything cooks evenly.
- Peppers - Red bell peppers give a sweet contrast, while hot cherry peppers (or sweet pickled peppers) add that signature kick. You can find the hot cherry peppers in the pickle aisle at the store.
- Onion & Garlic - To bring a deep, aromatic, savory flavor to the dish. Freshly
- Crushed Tomatoes - For the base of the sauce, giving it a tangy richness.
- Italian Seasoning - Italian Seasoning gives this dish it's iconic Italian flavor. You can change up the seasoning as you wish for a different flavor profile.
- Red Pepper Flakes - For an extra spicy kick. You can easily adjust the amount to your heat preference or omit them altogether.
- Parmesan Cheese - Gives the dish a salty, umami punch and thickens the sauce slightly.
- Fresh Herbs - Basil or Italian flat-leaf parsley will add a refreshing touch and a pop of color to the dish.
- Heavy Cream - Optional, but adds a delightful creaminess to the dish.
How to Make Chicken Riggies
- Cook pasta and set it aside. Cook the rigatoni pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package directions until al dente (usually about 5 to 7 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Set the pasta aside, reserving the pasta water for later.
- Prepare chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Cook the chicken and set it aside. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. It's okay if it's not cooked all the way through yet. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Sauté onion. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add peppers and garlic. Next, add in the bell peppers and hot or sweet pickled peppers. Sauté for another 5 to 6 minutes until the peppers have softened.
- Add garlic. Add the garlic during the last minute of sautéing.
- Deglaze the pan, then add tomatoes and seasoning. Deglaze the pan with ½ cup white wine (or water) for 2-3 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes while stirring to allow the flavors to blend.
- Add in the chicken and cook. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Mix in cheese. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
- Add pasta. Add the cooked pasta and ½ cup pasta water, stirring until coated.
- Cook, garnish, and serve hot. Add a splash or two of additional pasta water as needed to get the consistency you like. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until done. Garnish with more cheese, fresh basil or parsley, and additional red pepper flakes, if desired.
Transfer the cooled dish to an airtight container. It will keep well in the refrigerator for 3–4 days. When you're ready to enjoy your leftovers, heat them in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Add a splash of water or broth to help rejuvenate the sauce. Alternatively, you can microwave in short bursts, stirring between each one to ensure it heats evenly.
If you've made a large batch, you can freeze Chicken Riggies for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Tips for Success
- Be sure to cook the pasta al dente, as it will keep cooking slightly in the sauce.
- Each step, from the browning of the chicken to sautéing the veggies, will build flavor in this dish. Don't rush the steps, or you will end up compromising on flavor.
- If you find your sauce is too thick, you can thin it with the reserved pasta water, which also adds flavor. If it's too thin, let it simmer for a bit longer, or add some more cheese.
What do I serve with Chicken Riggies?
Chicken Riggies will go well with classic Italian sides or just some of your favorite comforting side dishes.
Substitutions and Variations
- It's not chicken riggies without the chicken, but you can use other protein options in this dish including pork tenderloin, kielbasa, sausage, shrimp, cooked ham, or even leftover turkey!
- Any kind of pasta will work well here, but the rigatoni is the star of the dish for an authentic NY experience. Try making your own Homemade Pasta if you prefer, just be aware the cooking time may vary with fresh pasta!
- Use your favorite kind of cheese like sharp cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, or even Pepper Jack cheese would work well to bring in different flavors here.
- Try other fresh herbs like fresh parsley, rosemary, or thyme to give this dish a different flavor.
More Pasta Recipes
- How to Make Homemade Pasta
- TikTok Beet Pasta
- Creamy White Chicken Lasagna
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Basil
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Chicken Riggies Recipe
- 1 pound rigatoni
- 1½ to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1½-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 red bell peppers diced
- ½ cup sliced, drained hot cherry peppers or sweet pickled peppers (about 6 peppers)
- ½ large yellow onion chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup white wine or water
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, but worth it) + more for garnish
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnish
- Chopped fresh basil or fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley for garnish
- Cook rigatoni in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente (usually about 5 to 7 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Set aside pasta and reserved pasta water.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, stirring occasionally until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. It's okay if it's not cook all the way through yet. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and hot or sweet pickled peppers. Saute for another 5 to 6 minutes until the peppers have softened. Add garlic during the last minute.
- Deglaze the pan with ½ cup white wine or water for 2-3 minutes, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. That's where the flavor is!
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes, if using. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 to 7 minutes while stirring to allow the flavors to blend.
- Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pan. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
- Add the cooked pasta and ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, stirring until coated. Add a splash or two of additional pasta water as needed to get a consistency you like. Simmer 1 to 2 minutes until done. Garnish with more cheese, fresh basil or parsley, and additional red pepper flakes, if desired.
- Adding cream: Some versions of this dish add ½ to 1 cup heavy cream or a combination of cream and/or cream cheese along with the cooked chicken and pasta water toward the end of the recipe, which makes it more like a vodka sauce. However, it seems that authentic chicken riggies from Utica, New York, rely only on melted parmesan cheese and additional pasta water to achieve their unique creaminess, which is the approach we ended up liking best.
- Adding mushrooms and olives: Another popular approach is to add mushrooms and olives. You can also add 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms along with the bell peppers. Add ½ cup of sliced black olives when you return the chicken to the pan.
- Protein: You can substitute sliced or crumbled Italian sausage for the chicken.
- Baked chicken riggies: You can also dump cooked pasta and sauce into a baking dish, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese or provolone, and bake until the cheese is melted for another variation that is a lot like baked ziti. Cover with foil and bake at 400°F for 20–25 minutes until bubbling. Uncover during the last 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to brown slightly. This is also a great way to freeze and reheat, although if the dish is being baked cold, it can take closer to 45 minutes to 1 hour to heat all the way through.
- Store: Transfer the cooled dish to an airtight container. It will keep well in the refrigerator for 3–4 days. When you're ready to enjoy your leftovers, heat them in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Add a splash of water or broth to help rejuvenate the sauce. Alternatively, you can microwave in short bursts, stirring between each one to ensure it heats evenly.
- Freeze: If you've made a large batch, you can freeze Chicken Riggies for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.