RECIPE

Chicken Riggies and ‘Scarole with Soul

Rachael says, “In central and western New York State, the Italian-American community has a specialty: Chicken Riggies. It is a dish made in many versions, but they all have chicken and rigatoni tossed with sweet and hot peppers and tomato sauce in common. Here’s my recipe for Chicken Riggies. Spicy escarole makes a perfect partner to this dish.”

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 3/4 pound chicken tenders (1 package)
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 package)
  • Black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped, divided
  • 2 large or 3 small cubanelle peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3 roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 6 hot cherry peppers pickled in jar (found in Italian section at the grocery store)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup cream (eyeball it)
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus more to pass at the table
  • 1/3 pound thick-cut capocolo hot ham, chopped
  • 2 heads escarole, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup basil (about 10 leaves), thinly sliced
  • 4 pieces crusty bread

Preparation

Bring a pot of water to a boil for “riggies.” Salt water and cook the rigatoni to al dente. Heads up: you will need to reserve about 1 1/2 cups of cooking water just before you drain the pasta.

Trim the chicken thighs and chop all the chicken into bite-size pieces. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat three tablespoons EVOO in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add chicken to hot pan and brown all over, about 7-8 minutes, then remove.

Add onions, 3-4 cloves of garlic and cubanelle peppers to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook 6-7 minutes to soften, then add the roasted red peppers.

Cut the tops off the hot peppers and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Chop the hot peppers and add them to the skillet. Stir in tomatoes and add chicken back to the skillet. Bring the sauce to a bubble, then stir in some starchy cooking water from the pasta – about one cup. Add 1/3-1/2 cup cream, about two turns of the pan. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer a couple of minutes. Add pasta and 1/2 cup cheese and toss to combine.

While the chicken and peppers are cooking, heat three tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped ham and cook two minutes, then add remaining reserved pasta water and garlic and reduce heat a bit. Add greens and wilt down, about two minutes. Season the greens with salt and pepper, than add one cup chicken stock. Simmer greens 5-6 minutes and serve.

Top the pasta with shredded basil. Pass cheese to top both pasta and greens and serve with crusty bread.

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Rachael Ray