Did you know that rice and peas actually exist as an Italian dish, and it uses real green peas? It is actually an Italian dish, originally called ‘Risi e Bisi’ [pronunciation: ri:zi-e- bi:zi], which simply means ‘rice and peas’. Simple yet delicious, it is a staple and exceptionally easy to make.
It’s not only the name but its ingredients refer to its origin; this Italian one-plate dish is a mix of rice and peas. In Italy, it is usually served as an appetizer or soup (a kind of primo piatto). As for its consistency, it tends to be a thick, soup-like dish that is rich in flavor and absolutely luscious. For Italians, this dish is truly made when it is topped with pancetta (essentially Italian bacon) and served on those cold winter evenings.
Risi e Bisi is a deservedly delicious Italian dish, and I highly recommend it as a dish you absolutely need to try.
Tips On The Ingredients
If you have the opportunity to use fresh beans, shell the peas and cook the pods or even the stems in the vegetable stock over a low flame first.
If fresh peas are not available, use frozen peas, if possible young peas as these have the most flavor and are incredibly tender.
Throw the frozen peas into the boiling stock, cook over a low flame for about 5 minutes, and allow the frozen vegetables to defrost in it. It’s important to note that both cases require hot vegetable stock before you start cooking your ‘Risi e bisi’.
Use risotto rice for an authentic risi e bisi, Arborio or Vialone nano work best. Use small grain round rice if you can’t find these types.
Cook times of risotto rice is usually written on the box of the rice. By Vialone nano type it takes about 16-18 minutes. Prepare a small amount of hot water or stock in case your rice absorbs too much liquid, or it is too dry. As for the texture, the original ‘Risi e bisi’ is a thick soup, it is more luscious than the commonly known Italian risotto.
The origin of ‘Risi e bisi’
‘Risi e bisi’ is the special spring dish of the province of Venice (region Veneto): the fresh peas and the taste of parsley provide grandiose flavors that tantalize the tastebuds and give your palette something to be excited about. According to historical and local Italian sources, its origin is traceable to the celebration of spring: ‘Risi e bisi’ was the first dish served at the dinner given by the Doges – the patron saint of the city – each year on April 25th in honor of San Marco.
Chef’s Tip: there is 50 g (1/4 cup) pancetta (Italian bacon) among the ingredients of the original Risi e bisi recipe. I omitted this, but in case you want to boost the flavour of your dish, toast pancetta together with the onions at the beginning.
Risi e Bisi
- 5 cups peas frozen, or 1 000 g fresh peas with pods and stems
- 1 cup risotto rice Vialone nano, Arborio, 200 g
- ½ stick butter 60 g
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 onion
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- ground black pepper
- Throw the frozen peas into the boiling vegetable stock, cook over a low flame for about 5 minutes, and allow the frozen vegetables to defrost in it. For fresh peas, cook them in the hot stock until almost tender.
- Use a large pan, melt half of the butter, and add the oil. Add the small diced onions and the finely chopped parsley. Sauté the onions for about 3-4 minutes until they are translucent.
- Add the peas and a ladle of vegetable stock and cook over a low flame for 5 minutes.
- Pour the remaining stock into the pot with the peas and add the rice. Stir frequently until rice is al dente (to the tooth), which means it is cooked, tender, but firm to the bite.
- Take your pan off the heat, add grated Parmesan cheese and the remaining butter, serve hot.