Utica Greens is a beloved dish from the heart of Central New York made with fresh, leafy escarole, savory veggies, hot cherry peppers, prosciutto, and parmesan cheese, with a comforting bread crumb topping!
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This Utica Greens recipe might become your new favorite go-to side dish! It's a traditional Italian-American recipe that's sure to be an immediate hit with your guests with its savory, spicy, and cheesy goodness. They are perfect with a pot of Chicken Riggies.
Ready in just 20 minutes, it's one of those quick and easy recipes that doesn't compromise on flavor. They're perfect for any occasion, whether you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner or just looking for a quick side dish to go with your main course for a busy weeknight meal.
Utica greens are all about the sautéed escarole, the simple and humble leafy green, which is elevated to comforting perfection. It's sautéed, mixed with other flavorful veggies, and then topped with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese!
Then the greens are broiled to golden brown perfection gives this dish a satisfying contrast between the tender cooked greens and the crisp, flavorful crust. My whole family enjoyed this dish and there weren't any leftovers!
For more delicious green vegetable side dishes, try my Sautéed Swiss Chard, Oven Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, Parmesan & Lemon, Green Beans with Bacon and Pine Nuts, or this Classic Bacon Broccoli Salad!
What are Utica Greens?
Utica Greens originated in the city of Utica in New York, which is an area known for its rich Italian-American heritage. This dish was made popular by local restaurants in the late 1980s and is still popular to this day. It's a traditional dish that has become a staple in Italian restaurants across America, and it's also a source of pride for Central New Yorkers! I had to include it in my American Eats series!
Try serving your Utica Greens with a main dish like my Perfect Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet BBQ Pork Rub, Honey Mustard Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Steak Flank with Mushrooms, or my Spicy Honey Chicken!
Why We Love This Recipe
- The spiciness of this dish can be tailored to your preference by using different peppers or by using other seasonings.
- It's simple enough to serve as a regular appetizer or as part of a larger Italian feast.
- Quick and easy to make, this yummy side dish is ready in just 20 minutes!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Breadcrumbs - These will create the perfect crusty top when broiled, absorbing flavors and adding a crunch that contrasts with the tender greens.
- Cheese - Freshly grated cheese like Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese is a must for that salty, umami kick that balances out the bitterness of the greens. Pecorino Romano will have a sharper taste, while Parmesan is slightly milder and nuttier.
- Kosher Salt - Enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish and balances the bitterness of the greens.
- Pepper - Freshly ground black pepper will add a slight heat and a great peppery flavor to the dish.
- Oregano - Use dried oregano for an earthy, slightly bitter, and minty flavor.
- Oil - To sauté the veggies and add richness to the breadcrumb mixture.
- Escarole - The traditional choice of leafy green vegetable for the base of the dish.
- Onion - Adds sweetness and depth of flavor once sautéed, which is a perfect counterbalance to the spicy peppers.
- Prosciutto or Pancetta - To bring a savory, salty dimension with classic Italian flavors and a bit of crispy texture to the dish.
- Hot Cherry Pepper - Gives the dish its signature heat. If you prefer less spice, you can reduce the number or even opt for milder peppers.
- Garlic - Freshly minced garlic cloves are best for this recipe, though you can use garlic powder in a pinch.
How to Make Utica Greens
- Prepare and cook the escarole. Thoroughly wash the escarole to remove any grit. Add the entire head of escarole to a large pot of hot water (just boiled) to blanch for 1-2 minutes until bright green. This helps reduce some of the bitterness. Transfer the escarole to a colander and rinse well under cold water, or dip into ice water, to stop the cooking process. Drain well. Chop the escarole into 2-inch pieces and set aside.
- Make bread crumb mixture. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, mixing until the breadcrumb mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand. Set aside.
- Sauté ingredients. Heat the broiler. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-safe pan or a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, prosciutto, peppers, and garlic. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until the onions have softened and the prosciutto is crispy. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any blackened bits, mixing them in with the veggies, as they are packed with flavor!
- Add escarole and breadcrumb mixture. Add the chopped greens and half of the breadcrumb mixture, stirring until everything is evenly combined.
- Cook. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add remaining cheese. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb mixture on top of the greens. Place the whole pan under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until toasted on top.
Simply omit the prosciutto or pancetta and use vegetarian cheese to make this a vegetarian side dish.
If you can't find hot cherry peppers, you can substitute them with another type of hot pepper, or for a slightly milder dish, use sweet peppers with a dash of red pepper flakes for heat.
For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free breadcrumbs or a gluten-free bread alternative pulsed into crumbs.
To make Utica Greens less spicy, remove the seeds from the cherry peppers, use fewer peppers, or substitute them with milder peppers.
Utica Greens are a flavorful way to enjoy leafy greens, which are nutritious, but keep in mind that the addition of cheese and cured meats adds fat and sodium. Adjust the ingredients to suit your dietary needs for a healthier version.
Once the Utica Greens have cooled to room temperature, place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They should be consumed within 3–4 days of being freshly made. The sooner you eat them, the better they'll taste, as the flavors continue to meld together even after cooking. To reheat, put them in the microwave and sprinkle a few drops of water over the greens to keep them moist. Cover them loosely, then reheat until warm. You can also use an oven; simply reheat at 350°F until they're heated through. You may want to add a fresh sprinkle of breadcrumbs to revive the crunchiness of the topping before serving.
Tips for Success
- Use good-quality cheese for the best flavor here. Freshly shredded cheese is always better than pre-shredded, so try to buy blocks of cheese that you can shred yourself.
- Balancing the heat of the hot peppers with the savory and salty flavors of the prosciutto or pancetta and Romano cheese is key. Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper accordingly.
- Don't skip the blanching process before cooking the escarole. It will help reduce some of the bitterness to make this dish truly delicious.
What Do I Serve with Utica Greens?
Utica Greens can hold their own as part of a larger spread, such as a Thanksgiving dinner or a potluck.
Serve them with other classic New York dishes, like Chicken Riggies!
If you're aiming for a vegetable-centric meal or need a variety of sides, consider serving Utica Greens with roasted root vegetables like Roasted Green Beans or Roasted Broccoli, with a crisp salad, or steamed vegetables seasoned with herbs and olive oil.
Substitutions and Variations
- You can use another kind of leafy green vegetable, like Swiss chard, to make this dish if you prefer. Be sure to give them a thorough rinse to remove any grit and blanch them quickly to reduce bitterness. Squeeze out excess water to prevent the dish from becoming soggy. Kale or collard greens can also be used, though they may need to be cooked slightly longer to become tender.
- If you're out of prosciutto or pancetta, you can use other types of Italian deli meats or a good-quality ham for a similar salty and meaty flavor.
- Use gluten-free breadcrumbs to make this dish gluten-free. For a crunchier texture, use panko breadcrumbs.
- Sea salt or Himalayan pink salt can be used as a 1:1 substitute instead of Kosher salt if you prefer.
- For less heat, use mild pickled peppers, or for a sweet version, try roasted red bell peppers.
More Delicious Side Dish Recipes
- Easy Oven Roasted Cauliflower
- Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus
- Italian Sausage Stuffing with Cranberries & Apples
- Fresh Green Bean Casserole
- Creamed Peas and Potatoes
- Oven Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Parmesan and Lemon
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.
- ½ cup plain breadcrumbs (not Panko style)
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 head escarole or swiss chard
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 ounces prosciutto or pancetta, diced (about 4 slices)
- ¼ cup hot pickled cherry peppers, tops and seeds removed, then chopped (about 4 to 6 peppers)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, cheese, oregano, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, mixing until the breadcrumb mixture is evenly moistened and resembles wet sand. Set aside.
- Thoroughly wash the escarole to remove any grit. Add the entire head of escarole to a large pot of boiling water to blanch for 1-2 minutes until bright green. This helps reduce some of the bitterness.
- Transfer the escarole to a colander and rinse well under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. Chop the escarole into 2-inch pieces and set aside.
- Heat the broiler. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, prosciutto, peppers, and garlic. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes until the onions have softened and the prosciutto is crispy.
- Add the chopped greens and half of the breadcrumb mixture, stirring until everything is evenly combined and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the remaining breadcrumb mixture on top of the greens.
- Broil for 2-3 minutes until toasted on top.
- Store: Once the Utica Greens have cooled to room temperature, place them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They should be consumed within 3–4 days of being freshly made. The sooner you eat them, the better they'll taste, as the flavors continue to meld together even after cooking.
- Reheat: Put the dish in the microwave and sprinkle a few drops of water over the greens to keep them moist. Cover them loosely, then reheat until warm.You can also use an oven, simply reheat at 350°F until they're heated through. You may want to add a fresh sprinkle of breadcrumbs to revive the crunchiness of the topping before serving.