Chicken Riggies is a comforting pasta dish loaded with flavor from chicken, bell peppers, and hot cherry peppers that are tossed with rigatoni in a creamy tomato-based sauce and topped with fresh basil. This dish hails from Utica, New York, and is one of the most requested dishes we get to add to the website and YouTube. We hope we've done Utica proud!
Combining rigatoni, boneless, skinless chicken thighs with hot cherry and bell peppers in a pink cream sauce sounds like a fabulous idea.
But it wasn't until we received multiple requests for "Chicken Riggies" that we knew this dish existed and that it had a name.
The dish is traditionally made with rigatoni, hence the "riggies", and is one we think you'll want to add to your pasta rotation.
Chicken Riggies is easy to make, spicy, creamy, and just all sorts of delicious!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Chop 5 medium cherry peppers and remove the seeds and stems. Slice 2 red bell peppers lengthwise. Chop 8 cloves of garlic. Set these ingredients aside and bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water) to a boil.
- Pat 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a large pan to medium heat and sear the chicken in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until cooked through (about 5-6 minutes per side). Place the chicken on a plate and tent it with foil.
- If needed, add a touch more olive oil to the pan and saute the bell peppers for 7-10 minutes or until they brown a bit and soften. Add the garlic cloves to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the garlic turns golden.
- Add the cherry peppers and cook for about 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup of dry white wine and turn the heat to high, cooking until the liquid reduces by half (about 2-3 minutes). Using a wooden spoon, dislodge the brown bits from the pan. At this point, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to 1 minute less than al dente.
- Add 1 28-ounce can of crushed plum tomatoes to the pan and turn the heat back down to medium. Cook the sauce over a lively simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of heavy cream to the pan and mix to combine with the tomatoes.
- While the sauce continues to thicken, slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
- Add the chicken to the pan and continue to simmer, turning down the heat a bit while waiting for the pasta to finish. Note: Be sure to reserve at least 2 cups of pasta water as you'll need it in a bit.
- Once the pasta is 1 minute less than al dente, add it to the sauce and mix well to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add a ½ cup more of the reserved pasta water and continue to cook until the pasta reaches al dente (about 1 more minute). Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.
- Add ½ cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and mix to combine. Add a touch of pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce. Add ¼ cup of hand-torn basil leaves to the chicken riggies and serve immediately. Enjoy!
Top tips for Chicken Riggies
- The pasta. The dish is called "chicken riggies" because it's traditionally made with rigatoni. But if you need to use penne, ziti, fusilli, or any other pasta shape, don't worry. You'll still be ok, really!
- The pasta water. We say this in almost every pasta recipe, but stress it even more so when making cream-based sauces. Save your pasta water! You will definitely need some to loosen up the sauce if it starts to dry out.
- The peppers. We used a combination of bell pepper and hot cherry peppers. If you love spice, definitely add more cherry peppers or even some Calabrian chili paste. If you prefer no heat, use bell peppers and sweet cherry peppers.
- The chicken. We used boneless skinless chicken thighs because we think they have great flavor and are economical, but if you prefer to use chicken breasts you can definitely add them here.
More great creamy pasta dishes we know you'll love
Here are a few of our favorite creamy pasta dishes. Let us know if you have a favorite pasta dish you'd like us to make!
- Creamy lemon chicken pasta - Lemon zest and seared chicken in a creamy sauce.
- Chicken Alfredo pasta - Blackened chicken in a creamy Parmigiano Reggiano sauce.
- Pasta alla Norcina - Sausage and pasta tossed in a creamy white wine sauce.
- Mushroom brandy pasta - Spaghetti and mushrooms tossed in a creamy pink sauce with a touch of brandy.
- Rigatoni Primavera - Pasta tossed with veggies in a white wine pink sauce.
If you’ve enjoyed this chicken riggies recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lb rigatoni
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 8 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 red bell peppers sliced
- 5 medium cherry peppers chopped, seeds and stems removed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 28 ounce can crushed plum tomatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese grated
- 2 cups reserved pasta water will most likely not need it all
- ¼ cup basil leaves hand-torn
- Bring a large pot of salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt per gallon of water) to boil.
- Pat the chicken thighs dry and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a large pan to medium heat and sear the chicken in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until cooked through (about 5-6 minutes per side). Place the chicken on a plate and tent with foil.
- If needed, add a touch more olive oil for the saute process. Add the bell peppers to the pan and saute for about 7-10 minutes or until they take on some color and soften. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more or until it turns golden.
- Next, add the cherry peppers, cook for 1 minute, then add the wine. Turn heat to high and cook until the liquid reduces by half (about 2-3 minutes). With a wooden spoon scrape up all of the brown bits from the pan. At this time begin boiling the pasta to 1 minute less the al dente.
- Add the tomatoes and turn the heat back down to medium. Cook the sauce over a lively simmer for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the cream and mix to incorporate. Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Once the sauce starts to thicken add the chicken and continue to simmer. You can turn the heat down a bit at this point while waiting for the pasta to finish.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and mix well to coat. If too thick, add a ½ cup or more of reserved pasta water. Cook until the pasta reaches al dente (about 1 minute more) then turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner.
- Add the Pecorino and mix together. Add a touch of pasta water if required to loosen up the sauce. Add the basil right before serving. If the pasta dries up before serving just add a bit more of the reserved pasta water. Enjoy!
- Always reserve pasta water. If the pasta dries out before serving, just add a few ounces of the pasta water to bring the consistency back to perfect.
- If you'd like to increase the spice level you can use more cherry peppers. Alternatively, if you prefer no spice, you can opt for sweet cherry peppers instead.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop.