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By Cathi Iannone - This dish is a VERY popular Italian-American side dish where I grew up in New York, Utica. Great as a side, as a topping for a steak sandwich or meatball sub, stuffed in chicken, pork or leftovers, it can even be tossed in when you make a frittata in the morning! These greens, actually, blossom as they sit, so I think the leftovers are even better the next day! This is a staple dish on EVERY Italian restaurant menu (and some not-so-Italian) in my hometown. Now, from my kitchen to yours, I share it with you.

My Mom claims that the original recipe only had escarole, garlic, pickled cherry peppers and breadcrumbs. Over the years, the recipe has evolved into something a little more "souped-up," or as some restaurants would call, "Greens Deluxe." So, technically, my recipe here is more of a Deluxe version, but, you can use the recipe as kind of a canvas, and get creative with it! 

Back in my hometown, as a tribute, there is even an annual Greens Festival, a free event open to the public, where local restaurants show off their culinary chops with their own version of the dish, and so much more! Vendors line historic Varick Street with lots of crafts, specialty food products, etc. Plus, there is always a fantastic line up of musical talent with UMAF (Utica Music & Arts Fest) musicians playing live in the streets. Check out the Utica Greens Fest Facebook page to learn more about this famous dish and the Festival!


Breadcrumbs are essential to the distinct texture

3 heads of escarole (rinsed very well)

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic (pushed through a garlic press)

5-7 Pickled hot cherry peppers (roughly chopped; quantity depending on how much heat you like)

3-4 slices of prosciutto (or pancetta), torn into 2 inch pieces

3/4 cup of plain bread crumbs (not Italian)

1 cup of artichoke hearts (quartered)

¼ cup of grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano) optional, but who doesn’t love cheese?


1. Cut the bottom of each escarole head, and chop into large (4 square-inch sized, but you may chop smaller if you like them that way) pieces.  Steam the escarole in a wire basket over a large pot of boiling water (2 inches of water) for about 7-8 minutes, or until limp.  It will reduce greatly as it steams. (If you boil the escarole, keep an eye on it so the greens do not get too mushy). They should still be slightly firm.

2. Meanwhile, in a 12 in skillet, crisp the prosciutto in about 2 tablespoon of olive oil.  Next, add the hot cherry peppers (add about 1 Tbsp. of the pickling liquid), artichokes, and garlic on low heat. Cover, and allow to cook on very low heat for about 10 minutes, so the hot cherry peppers soften all the way through.

3. Next, with tongs, remove the escarole from the wire basket and drain in a colander until no water drips out (you may need to give it a little squeeze). Add it to the sauté and toss, turning quite a bit so the ingredients incorporate.

4. Sprinkle in the breadcrumbs, liberally, and toss thoroughly (the breadcrumbs give a nice, fuller-bodied texture you want.)

5. Sprinkle in the grated cheese and toss again (optional, but adds great flavor).

6. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, so the dish can blossom.


The basic Greens recipe doesn't have a lot of add-ins, besides the hot cherry peppers. It's more of a blank canvas. But, once you start adding mushrooms, artichokes, prosciutto, potatoes, etc., it becomes Greens Deluxe (which I love best!) :-) Also, my Mom told me that Chef Joe Morelli sometimes added a slight bit (a few Tbsp) of chicken stock to his. I don't think I've ever had them this way, but I'd give it a whirl next time I do. Anything Chef Morelli touches is gold, so it must be great!