A traditional Italian-American dish that originates from Utica in Upstate New York, featuring escarole, prosciutto, pickled hot peppers, and garlic.
About 60 miles east of Syracuse lies the smaller city, Utica. Utica has a diverse immigrant population, and the blending of the many unique cultures and traditions have resulted into some seriously amazing regional cuisines, which includes tomato pie, chicken riggies, and of course, Utica Greens.
In 2007 Rachel Ray, who hails from Upstate New York featured a mash-up of two of Utica’s most well-loved regional dishes, with her recipe Chicken Riggies and ‘Scarole with Soul. Even though “Greens” now appear on the menu of virtually every Italian-American restaurant in Utica, and have been featured on Ray’s Food Network show, this dish has very humble beginnings. It was not originally chef-prepared restaurant fare, it was home cooks making do with what they had on hand, and every home had a garden and a root cellar full of things they canned, or “put up”. This is home cooked comfort food at it’s finest.
These greens are spicy and hefty and rich, studded with delicious smokey prosciutto and thickened with cheese and breadcrumbs.
A traditional Italian-American that originates from Utica in Upstate New York, featuring escarole, prosciutto, pickled hot peppers, and garlic.
- 1 bag escarole, chopped, fresh (15 ounces)
- 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup hot pickled cherry peppers, chopped
- 1/2 cup prosciutto, diced
- 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup Pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- Bring a 5-quart stock pot filled with 1 tablespoon sea-salted water to a boil. Add escarole and cook until tender (about 1-2 minutes).
- Reserve about 2 tablespoons each of breadcrumbs and cheese for topping. Mix remaining breadcrumbs with cheese, oregano, and pepper.
- In a large ovenproof saute pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add cooked greens and chicken stock to the pan and stir to combine. Mix in chopped peppers, prosciutto, breadcrumbs/cheese mixture.
- Top with reserved breadcrumbs and cheese.
- Heat oven to broil.
- Place casserole under broiler for 4 to 6 minutes until brown, checking frequently.
If you have never had escarole before, it looks a lot like lettuce but is actually more closely related to endive. If you happen to have a Wegmans near you, they sell cleaned and cut escarole in a 15-ounce bag, which is the perfect amount for this recipe. If you have trouble finding escarole, kale or any greens (swiss chard, etc) can be substituted.
The flavor of escarole is somewhat similar to that of a radish. Escarole can have a tendency to be bitter, but not when prepared this way, the first step of blanching the greens, results in a tender leaf that is not bitter at all, don’t skip this step!
Utica Greens are just one of those dishes you can not go wrong with, I am pretty sure the recipe is fool proof, and everyone loves it. There is no wrong way to serve this dish. I have served it as a side dish to pasta, but the greens always seem to outshine whatever main-dish I plate with them, so prefer Utica greens with nothing but a loaf of hot, crusty Italian bread and a glass of Riesling.