Risi e bisi

“Risi e bisi” (rice and peas) is a classic Venetian dish. In the past it was prepared only on the feast days decreed by the Doge (Venice’s ruler), and though one can now make it any time, it really shines only when freshly harvested baby peas are available in the springtime.

On April 25, the day of Saint Mark the Evangelist, patron saint of the Venetian Republic, this soup was offered with much pomp to the doge, because the peas represented the arrival of spring and the rice the bonanza offered by the return of warm weather.

Ingredients

3 T (2oz/60g) butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 oz (60 g) pancetta (can substitute with lean bacon), chopped
4 cups (1 qt/1 L) meat broth (stock)
l0 oz (315g) shelled, fresh peas (or frozen peas, if out of season)
1 2/3 cups (lO oz/315 g) Carnaroli rice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 T chopped parsley

How to make the Risi e bisi:

This is a fairly liquid rice dish, with the grains well separated. It has the consistency of a thick soup, not of a risotto.

How to make the risi e bisi: melt the butter in a large skillet. Add onion and pancetta and cook until onion is translucent.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to boil in a saucepan. Add the peas and rice to the bacon mixture and pour half the broth over. Gradually add almost all of the boiling broth and cook for 15 minutes.

Season the risi e bisi with salt and pepper; stir in the Parmesan and enough additional broth so that the mixture is fairly liquid. Sprinkle with parsley and let rice rest for a couple of minutes away from the heat before serving.

Adapted from:
Italy the beautiful cookbook
by Lorenza De’Medici
Collins Publishers

Serves 6

Regional recipe from Veneto