Utica's number one consumed food may surprise you

The Iconic Food of Utica, NY: Chicken Riggies

Utica, New York, is renowned for its unique culinary heritage, and the crown jewel of its gastronomic offerings is undoubtedly "Chicken Riggies." This beloved dish, deeply rooted in the local culture, is not only the most consumed food in Utica but also a symbol of the city's rich Italian-American heritage.



What are Chicken Riggies?

Chicken Riggies is a delectable pasta dish that combines rigatoni with a creamy and spicy tomato-based sauce, chicken, peppers, and sometimes mushrooms and olives. The name "Riggies" is a playful nod to the use of rigatoni pasta, which serves as the backbone of this hearty dish. The sauce can vary in its level of spiciness, with some versions being mild and others packing a significant punch.

The Origin of Chicken Riggies

The exact origins of Chicken Riggies are a bit murky, but it is widely believed to have emerged in the Italian-American communities of Utica in the latter half of the 20th century. The dish is a fusion of Italian culinary traditions with an American twist, reflecting the immigrant heritage of the region. Over time, Chicken Riggies has evolved into a staple of local cuisine, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.


Why is Chicken Riggies So Popular?

Several factors contribute to the popularity of Chicken Riggies in Utica:

  1. Flavor Profile: The combination of creamy, spicy, and savory elements makes Chicken Riggies an irresistible comfort food.
  2. Cultural Significance: The dish is a source of pride for Utica's Italian-American community and a symbol of the city's culinary identity.
  3. Versatility: Chicken Riggies can be customized to suit various tastes, from mild to extra spicy, making it appealing to a wide audience.
  4. Community Celebrations: Events like the annual "Riggie Fest" celebrate this iconic dish, further cementing its status as a local favorite.

How to Make Chicken Riggies

For those who want to try their hand at making this iconic dish at home, here's a simple recipe to get you started:


  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (one red, one green), diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Cook the Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rigatoni and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Prepare the Chicken: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, and cook until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Sauté the Vegetables: In the same skillet, add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Make the Sauce: Add the chicken broth, tomato sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes to the skillet. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Allow the sauce to reduce slightly, about 5 minutes.
  5. Finish the Dish: Lower the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Return the cooked chicken to the skillet, and simmer until the sauce thickens. Add the cooked rigatoni and toss to coat evenly.
  6. Serve: Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Chicken Riggies is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary tradition that embodies the spirit and culture of Utica, NY. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, indulging in a plate of Chicken Riggies offers a taste of the city's vibrant heritage and its love for hearty, flavorful food. So next time you find yourself in Utica, make sure to savor this iconic meal – it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.


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