Venetian Rice & Peas (Risi e Bisi)

In Venice, this classic dish is traditionally served on April 25th, St. Mark’s Day. This version was adapted from Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi Farm and Bed and Breakfast in Piombino Dese, outside of Venice, Italy, via 177MilkStreet.com, contributed by Diane Unger.

The recipe is similar to risotto in its cooking method and because it incorporates arborio rice, but this dish is much more fluid and soupy. It is definitely for pea lovers! Whole peas and puréed peas are mixed into the creamy rice. I loved the vibrant, beautiful color of the finished dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, half thinly sliced and half finely chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup frozen, 1 cup thawed & at room temperature)
  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed or finely chopped (I used uncured pancetta)
  • 4 T salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, divided
  • 1 cup arborio or vialone nano rice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. In a medium pot, combine the carrot, sliced onion (reserve the chopped onion), celery, fennel seeds, stock (or broth), and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high, then cover, reduce to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables have softened, 10 to 12 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining as much of the liquid as possible. (It’s okay if some of the fennel seeds remain in the pot.) (I used a Vitamix.)
  3. Add 1 cup of the stock to the blender along with the parsley and the still-frozen peas. (The frozen peas cool the mixture so that it remains a brilliant green.) Leave the remaining stock in the pot, covered, so that it remains warm. (I kept the pot over low heat.)
  4. Blend the solids, parsley, frozen peas, and cup of stock until the mixture is completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes; set aside. (You should have about 3 cups of purée.)
  5. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the reserved chopped onion, pancetta, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pancetta are lightly browned and the pancetta fat is rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. (I used a low, wide, enameled cast iron pot.)
  6. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, about 1 minute.
  7. Stir in 1 cup of warm stock. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Ladle in additional stock to barely cover the rice, about 1 cup at a time, and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes per addition.
  9. Repeat the addition of stock, about 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the liquid has been absorbed. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  10. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes.
  11. Add the thawed, room temperature peas and the reserved purée; stir into heated through, about 1 minute.
  12. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter; stir until melted.
  13. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  14. Serve sprinkled with additional grated Parmesan, as desired.

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