It was inevitable, growing up in Utica, NY I was destined to become a foodie. It is unbelievable to me how many remarkable culinary creations are unique to the Utica/ Rome area in upstate, New York. The Italian immigrants in this area and the Italian American community today are responsible for a number of local specialties such as tomato pie, chicken riggies, pasticiotti or “pusties” as they’re commonly known around here, and the star of this post: Utica greens. Featured at many of the local restaurants it is a dish that’s enjoyed as a shared appetizer or even as a main course. It is a staple at every party and one of my favorite dishes.
The greens called for in this recipe is escarole which is a variety of the endive family but with a milder taste. I love escarole in any recipe but if you don’t, or if you can’t find it, you can substitute mustard greens, frisée, spinach or arugula but keep in mind this will change the taste and texture of this dish.
I am giving you my recipe for Utica greens but you can alter it to fit your taste and what you have on hand. These greens are typically served with some degree of heat from the hot cherry peppers and you can adjust the amount according to how hot you want them. If you do not like any heat then you can substitute sweet cherry peppers in place of the hot. I have used both fresh cherry peppers and pickled cherry peppers with equal success, either choice will work well in this recipe. The traditional recipe calls for prosciutto but you can substitute pancetta, bacon, salami or even Italian sausage. The greens can be washed and boiled ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to prepare the finished dish making it a perfect dish to prepare for holidays or parties. Make sure you thoroughly wash the greens because escarole can be pretty gritty!
- 2 large heads of escarole
- 2-3 hot cherry peppers sliced thin, can use fresh or pickled
- ¼ pound, about 4 slices Prosciutto chopped into small pieces
- ⅓ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut off bottom of escarole and discard. Remove any bruised leaves and chop the greens. Place in a large bowl of water and drain and refill several times or until greens are well cleaned. Place in a large pot of boiling salted water. I always add a sliced clove of garlic to the boiling water when I’m cooking greens to further infuse them with flavor. Cook the greens for 6-8 minutes or until just tender. Drain well and rinse under cold water to cool down. Squeeze as much excess water out as possible.
In a large sauté pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced hot peppers and sauté 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the chopped prosciutto and chopped garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the cooked greens, breadcrumbs, grated cheese and chicken broth. Cook for 3-4 minutes until well incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Place greens in a greased oven proof casserole and top with extra Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Place under broiler and broil for 3-4 minutes until top is browned watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Enjoy as an appetizer, side dish or even as the main entree with crusty Italian bread on the side.