Venetian-Style Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

Risi e Bisi
Risi e bisi. Creative Commons
Ratings
  • Total: 40 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
755 Calories
32g Fat
89g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 755
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 32g 41%
Saturated Fat 17g 83%
Cholesterol 66mg 22%
Sodium 1644mg 71%
Total Carbohydrate 89g 32%
Dietary Fiber 12g 43%
Protein 24g
Calcium 209mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

"Risi e bisi" ("rice and peas") is a very classic Venetian recipe, traditionally made with peas from the towns of Lumignano or Borso del Grappa. It's more liquidy than a risotto but not quite a soup, or minestra, falling instead somewhere in between in terms of consistency -- something like a thick soup. Use fresh green peas for this dish. It's traditionally made with short-grain Vialone Nano rice (not Carnaroli, which is used for risotto), but if you can't find it, you may substitute Arborio or Carnaroli. While it might seem like a humble peasant dish, it was traditionally offered to Venice's ruler the Doge in the Palazzo Ducale on April 25, the Feast Day of San Marco, the city's patron saint. 

Traditionally the shelled pea pods are boiled in salted water and then that water is used to make the dish (sometimes with the addition of the pureed cooked pods themselves), but to make this a quicker and easier version, we'll use vegetable broth. If you'd like to go the more traditional route, however, feel free to simmer the pods in 6 cups of salted water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour and use that in place of the broth.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green peas (in pods)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 ounces unsmoked pancetta (or guanciale), diced - if you can't find either, you can substitute prosciutto or salt pork
  • 1 1/2 cups Vialone Nano rice 
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese
  • fine sea salt, to taste
  • ground white pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Shell the peas and discard the shells. Rinse and drain the peas well and set them aside.

  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until softened and transparent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the pancetta and continue cooking until lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. 

  3. Add the shelled peas and 1/2 cup of the broth. Continue cooking until the peas are just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add the rice and cook over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it's well coated, then splash in the wine.

  5. Cook, stirring, until the wine has been absorbed, then add a ladle of the broth. Cook until most of the broth has been absorbed. Repeat until rice is firm but tender, about 20 minutes.

  6. Remove from heat and add any remaining broth, as necessary, to bring the consistency to that of a thick soup.

  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley, grated cheese, and the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until melted.

  8. Serve hot with additional grated cheese, for sprinkling on top.