Waverly Root, author of The Food of Italy, wonders whether this simple yet sumptuous creation is a soup or a vegetable dish. Called risi e bisi in Venetian dialect, it’s more about peas than about rice, and is traditionally served on April 25, St. Mark’s Day, when the first peas of the region appear in the Rialto market. They are expensive and not as flavorful as the ones that are available a little later. That is why Francesco says the dish is better later in the season, for the feast of the Redeemer, or Redentore, to celebrate the end of the plague in 1576. Purists insist on peas from Chioggia. The texture of the dish is rather soupy, thinner than the typical Venetian risotto all’onda. “It’s the only rice dish you can eat with a spoon,” Francesco points out, “And the rice cannot be al dente.”
Risi e Bisi
- 2 cups (250 g) fresh shelled peas (about)
- 4 tbsp (60 g) butter
- 1 cup (150 g) vialone nano or Arborio rice
- 1/3 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
- 2/3 cup (80 g) chopped onion
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 60 gr freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1.5 l stock
- Heat the oil in a heavy 3-4 quart (3-4 L) saucepan. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until it is tender but not brown. Stir in the peas and 4 cups (1 L) of the stock.
- Simmer uncovered until the peas are very tender, about 30 minutes.
- With a slotted spoon, remove half of the peas and reserve. Puree the remaining contents of the saucepan and set aside.
- In a clean 3-quart (3 L) saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons (30 g) of the butter.
- Add the rice and cook over medium heat until it becomes opaque. Stir in the wine, the remaining stock, and the pureed pea mixture.
- Simmer gently, stirring from time to time, for 15 minutes.
- Add half the reserved peas, cook 10 minutes longer, then add the remaining peas and the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 g) of butter.
- Season with salt and pepper, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and serve in soup plates.