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Venetian Rice and Peas Recipe - Risi e Bisi

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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 prepare risi e bisi at any time, the dish really shines only when freshly harvested baby peas are available.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes


  • Freshly shelled peas (precise amounts below)
  • An onion
  • Several slices pancetta
  • Vegetable broth
  • Short grained rice, along the lines of Arborio or Vialone Nano
  • Parsley
  • Greshly grated Parmigiano


To make risi e bisi, begin by finely slicing an onion and sautéing it in oil and butter with finely minced lean pancetta or diced prosciutto. As soon as the onion turns golden add the rice (four handfuls for four people) and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the rice turns translucent (3-5 minutes). Then add green pea broth a ladle at a time; make the broth before hand by cooking the shells of the peas in lightly salted water and then straining the liquid. When the rice is half done, add the peas (you'll want to shell 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 k) peas to have sufficient quantity), together with a handful of minced parsley. When the rice reaches the al dente stage, turn off the flame, stir in a chunk of unsalted butter the size of a walnut, and a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmigiano. If you like it, freshly ground white pepper too.

Mr. Coltro notes that risi e fasoi, rise made with freshly shelled beans by the farmers and mountain dwellers of the Treviso region, is equally tasty.

What he doesn't say is how much pancetta to use, nor how much onion, nor how much oil & butter to begin with. This is quite typical of Italian recipes even now -- the author expects one to have a sense of Italian proportions.

I'd figure:
  • A medium onion
  • About 2 ounces (50 g) pancetta
  • A scant pound (400 g, or 2 cups) short-grained rice
  • 1/3 cup each olive oil and unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 k) unshelled peas (if you must, use half the weight frozen peas, and vegetable broth)
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresly grated Parmigiano and more at table
If you want a richer risi, boil the pea pods in chicken broth rather than water. The risi should be all'onda, in other words moist and creamy, rather than firm.

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