Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

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Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)  is basically a variant of risotto and while a good risotto is creamy in texture, a good bowl of risi e bisi is looser in composition.

As you would guess, the humble pea is the star of the rice-based dish and the fresher the pea, the better the dish (here’s my guide to buying fresh fruit and vegetables).  I like to make risi e bisi in the Spring when fresh peas are abundant, but I also crave the dish in the winter time when I make use of good quality frozen peas (both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods carry organic frozen peas at a decent price).

Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 8.5 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken; bones if you have homemade stock!)
  • 1.5 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
  • ¼ - ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt (Kosher) and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1.5 cups arborio rice (click here to see which brand tested best at America's Test Kitchens)
Process
  1. A good risotto starts with Arborio rice. Look for brands imported from Italy and expect to pay a premium for this superb starch (a little goes a long way). Begin by sautéing the finely diced onion with olive oil in a large pot, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Next, add a bit more olive oil and sauté the Arborio rice until the kernels become translucent (this will add tremendous flavor to the dish and also start the cooking process for the rice). Next, add the white wine and stir the ingredients. Next, add enough stock to cover the rice and stir well..
  3. At this point you'll need to constantly stir the mixture and add one ladle of warm stock every 5-10 minutes (or whenever the ingredients are not covered by liquid), your flame should also be on simmer. After about 10-15 minutes you should start to see the Arborio rice release it's starch and the kernels begin to plump up. At this point, add the frozen peas and stir.
  4. The total cooking time should be between 30-45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark be sure to taste the rice kernels (you don't want al dente rice); once the rice is done add a bit more salt and pepper to taste and the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Mix the rice well and add 1-1.5 ladle of stock and the freshly chopped parsley (adding the extra stock at the end creates the variation in composition for your dish, remember you're not making risotto!).

rissi2

Enjoy with a crisp Sauvignon blanc.
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8 Comments

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  3. Hey there
    GREAT site! Evviva la Vita Italiana!
    Great recipe for Risi e Bisi…
    I’m of Southern Italian Italian extraction, but we had Risi e Bisi too. We used diced rendered pancetta along with olive oil, and we did have the rice somewhat al dente… just a tad past the real al dente stage, where the rice was decidedly soft but still a little chewy. We also used the pea pods to make the stock, and grated cheese… sometimes Romano or even home grated Provolone Piccante. A nice Frascati, Orvieto Abbocato, Est!-Est!!-Est!!! or a sparkler like Lachryma Christi were the accompaniment of choice. (Of course, all these Italian wines are hard to find in the provinces… so a nice Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc or similar would go well.) And you have the consistency exactly as I remember my grandmother’s — not so much “soupy” as like a thin stew.
    Buona Fortuna e mille grazie!

  4. Hi JP
    Thanks for the info and your comment. I’m flattered that you think I got the consistency and recipe correct, especially when comparing it to your grandmother’s!
    Let me know if you’d like to see other recipes covered here!
    Best,
    Vince

  5. I’ve never heard of this dish despite my Italian heritage — I can’t wait to try it out. 

    • Hi Nicole, my mother made it for us as children and I occasionally see the dish in cookbooks and on Italian cooking shows (but you’re right the name isn’t very well know). The dish is essentially a very loose risotto (more on the soup side).

      Vince

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