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Risi e Bisi, Italian Rice and Peas


A classic Italian comfort food of rice with peas and chunks of ham.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

This is a classic dish from Venice, and it has many variations.

Risi e bisi simply means rice and peas, and the dish is traditionally made with the fresh new peas of spring. If fresh peas are not available, you can easily make it with frozen peas (avoid canned).

Diced prosciutto is important to this dish, although not vital; I’ve seen vegetarian versions of risi e bisi. How much to add? You could go as high as a half pound in this recipe, making the dish more of a main course. But 1/4 pound is a better proportion for a side dish. And it must be diced: Slices will not do.

Can’t find prosciutto? Use any ham. Virginia ham is an excellent substitute. Remember dry cured hams are salty, so the more you add, the saltier the dish will become.

Risi e Bisi, Italian Rice and Peas Recipe

You must use a medium-grain rice here. Ideally, you’d use a variety from Venice called Vialone Nano, but regular Arborio is just fine, and Carnaroli is good, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 pound diced prosciutto or other dry ham
  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 or more cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

1 Sauté shallots: Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the shallots and stir to combine. Let these sauté for 2-3 minutes.

2 Heat stock and water: Meanwhile, heat up the stock and 1 cup of water in a small pot. You want this at a simmer while you make the rice.

3 Add garlic and prosciutto to shallots: Add the garlic and the diced prosciutto to the pot with the shallots, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

4 Add rice: Pour in the rice, stir again and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

5 Slowly ladle in stock: Ladle some of the hot stock into the pot and start stirring. Risi e bisi is cooked like risotto, and is supposed to be pretty soupy, so you need a lot of water and you need to stir it constantly. Let this first ladle of stock cook down before you add the next.

Keep adding stock, letting it cook down and stirring until you’re done with the simmering stock. It is likely that you may need at least one more cup of water to finish the dish, because all that stirring in an open pot means you evaporate more liquid than you would when you cook rice the normal way, i.e., covered. If you think you are going to need more water, add more to the simmering stock.

6 When you get to this last cup of water, add the peas. Keep stirring until the water has almost cooked away. Taste some rice and test for salt and doneness: Add a little salt and some more hot tap water if the rice is still crunchy – you want the rice to be a little al dente, but not so much you’re gnawing on raw grain.

7 Add the parsley and the parmesan and mix well. Your finished rice should be slightly soupy, so it’s OK to add a tad more water before serving.

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Risi E Bisi (Italian Rice and Peas)

Risi e Bisi – A flavorful Italian stewed rice with peas, leeks and rice for a quick and easy delicious vegan meal the whole family will love! Recipe can easily be halved.

What Is Risi e Bisi?

Risi e Bisi (pronounced REE-see ay BEE-see), literally meaning rice and peas and is a classic Venetian dish suited for serving in the spring and winter. It’s somewhat like a risotto but soupier and is considered a thick soup. You should be able to eat it with a fork, but you may rather want to use a spoon to scoop up all the delicious goodness.

As mentioned in this Food & Wine recipe, it is said by the cooks in Venetia that “for each grain of rice there should be a pea”. And I couldn’t agree more!

I enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of this comforting and creamy rice and peas dish in every way. The peas are sweet and pair nicely with the leeks and other flavors from the broth and light seasonings. This recipe makes a large batch so feel free to cut the recipe in half.

This traditional Italian Risi e Bisi recipe is inspired and adapted from NPR Kitchen Window, A Fresh Podcast: Savoring Springs Green Peas, and is especially delicious made with fresh spring green peas.

Ingredients You’ll Need

In this Italian recipe, rice is stewed with peas until tender and creamy, then served in a bowl with a light dusting of almond parmesan for a hearty and delicious main dish.

Here is everything you will need:

  • vegetable broth (or vegetable paste with water)
  • bay leaves – a thyme sprig would be great too!
  • olive oil – or water for water saute
  • garlic
  • leeks – can sub with onion or shallots
  • arborio rice – or any medium grain rice of choice
  • peas – fresh or frozen
  • parsley
  • mineral salt + pepper
  • nutritional yeast – will add a ‘cheesy’ flavor and is optional
  • almond parmesan

Quinoa option: There is also an option to make this with quinoa in place of rice (see recipe card). It was a delicious experiment and a nice option to using rice.

How To Make Risi E Bisi

  • In a medium saucepan, place the broth/water and bay leaves, bring to a gentle simmer and keep the broth warm.
  • In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rice, toss until rice is nicely coated, about 3 minutes (shown above).
  • Add in warm broth, 1 cup at a time, the stock should be bubbly. Stir often allowing the broth to be just absorbed. Add in another cup of broth, repeat until 6 cups have been used.
  • Add in peas, and remaining stock and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or so, or until the rice is al dente, stirring frequently until rice tender but chewy.
  • Lastly, stir in nutritional yeast to taste.

Time tip: The whole cooking process should be about 25 – 30 minutes.

  • Once done, your rice and peas should be a little soupy, but will thicken upon standing.
  • Remove from heat, taste for seasoning and stir in parsley (as shown above).

And now your stewed rice and peas is ready!

Less Hands-On Method:

After sauteing the leeks and rice as above. Add at least 7 – 8 cups broth, peas, bay leaves and nutritional yeast, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 – 25 minutes until rice is tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat add in parsley. Let set a few minutes and serve as desired.

How To Store Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 – 6 day, in a covered container.
  • Freezer: This Risi e Bisi is freezer friendly and freezes well for up to 2 – 3 months. To freeze, let cool completely and store in freezer safe containers (affiliate link), leaving ½ inch head space for expansion. You can also freeze larger portions in large ziplock (remove as much air as possible before zip locking). Let thaw before reheating.
  • Reheat: Simply re-warm on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through, adding more water or broth as needed to make a stew like consistency. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave using 30 – 60 second intervals, stirring after each, until warm.

Serving Suggestions

This delicious creamy risi e bisi is great alone, but can be made even better with a few of these serving options:

  • Toppings: Serve topped with a nice dusting of Almond Parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.
  • Salad: Serve with Vegan Caesar Salad or Heirloom Tomato & Endive Salad + Bagna Gouda.
  • Bread: Pair with a slice of homemade Artisan Bread or gluten-free Socca flatbread.

More Comfort Food Recipes!

If you try this risi e bisi recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.


Rise e bisi

This dish is not a risotto. It is a thick soup and doesn’t require the stock to be added little by little along with constant stirring. Although it says serves 4, it’s hard not to eat the lot.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves 4
25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, white part only, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano)
1 litre good chicken or vegetable stock
400g frozen peas
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp chopped parsley or chives
Salt and black pepper
25g butter and extra stock (both optional)

Simple ingredients, turned into something miraculous. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

1 Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy-based large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and leek, then cook gently for about 10 minutes without colouring. Heat up the stock in a separate pan.

2 Add the garlic and rice and stir with the onion mix for 2 minutes. Season well and add the stock to the rice. Bring to a simmer and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and bring back up to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for another 10‑15 minutes, or until the rice is just cooked.

3 Remove from the heat and add the parmesan and herbs. Stir and season well. An extra knob of butter can be stirred through at this point and more stock may be added for a more “soupy” finish.


Risi e bisi – rice and peas

Celebrate the vibrant flavours and colours of spring with this beautiful risi e bisi recipe – a pea and pancetta risotto. Luca boosts the flavour by cooking the rice in Prosecco and homemade stock and then folds in stracchino – a wonderful Italian fresh cow's milk cheese – just before serving.

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Fresh peas have just come into season in Italy, as spring arrives with an outburst of flowers and birdsong. This is the time to eat rice with fresh vegetables as they do in the Veneto.

Risi e bisi, which simply means rice and peas in the Venetian dialect, is the most famous of all risotti from the region. In the days of the Venetian Republic, it was served before the Doge on 25 April, the feast of Saint Mark and Venetian national day.

Like all risotti, it’s quite simple but needs care and attention while cooking. You should add the liquid little by little and never stop stirring to ensure that the rice is cooked evenly. Use a high-sided saucepan, and a wooden spatula which can get right into the corners of the pan while stirring.

In the Veneto, risotti are served all’onda which literally means ‘on the waves’. In fact, it means with quite a lot of liquid, rather like the city of Venice itself.

My version is made with Prosecco, the best of which comes from the hills of Valdobbiadene, about 50 miles to the north-west of Venice. It makes a luxurious accompaniment to the dish, but you could use any white wine from the region.


The restaurant Rizi and Bizi

Tomaž Bevčič has always been a chef – first in Ankaran and then in other places in Istria, training with great masters such as Evelin Grizon or Marjan Mislej. Ten years ago, he decided to open his own restaurant in Portorož, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Slovenia – along with Piran, Izola and Koper (also because these are the only towns on the coast in Slovenia). For his dishes, Tomaž mainly sources his ingredients from Croatia, and he’s always searching for the best fresh catch of seafood, since most of his dishes try to stay in theme with the coastal feel of his restaurants.

"I like to bring out all the flavor possibilities from any one ingredient – so I can understand how to transform it, but always with respect.” Bevčič’s menu changes about four times a year, but the chef always orients the dishes toward seafood. That’s why his version of rizi e bizi doesn’t call for bacon (like the traditional recipe), but instead contains red shrimp. He uses red shrimp from Kvarner, Croatia – a place known for having the most valuable shrimp in the Mediterranean. So much so that he adds them raw so you can taste their full flavor.


I am a food blog

I’m on a roll with the camp posts! I figure I should post them all before summer is over, since summertime equals camping. But, then again, Mike just suggested going camping sometime in September and seeing how we’re having a very warm late summer, it just might be something that we do.

We made this risi e bisi, or rice and peas, while we were camping at Detroit Lake, in Oregon, for the eclipse. We booked the campsite almost a year in advance, at midnight, after scoping out which campsite was the best one. We managed to snag one right on the lake, with an unobstructed view. It was gorgeous and more than one person complimented on our campsite choice.

It was the perfect setting for this risi e bisi. Technically this is nothing like the classic Italian risi e bisi (which means rice and peas), but it’s literally rice and peas, so we’re going to roll with it. Traditionally risi e bisi is more of a thick rice soup, similar to risotto, but a little more loose. Our risi e bisi was more of a rice pilaf and while it wasn’t anything like any risi e bisi you’ve seen, it was delicious!

Generally, risi e bisi showcases the first fresh peas of the season, but because we were camping, we used a bag of frozen peas. Tender peas, perfectly cooked rice, and nuggets of crispy pancetta made this one camp dish that I’d make again and again. I added some Bota Box Mini Pinot Grigio into the rice stock which bumped up the authenticity level just so.

It’s funny because I’m not actually very comfortable cooking rice on the stove – I grew up using a rice cooker and that’s essentially the only way I know how to make rice. But, when you’re camping, there are no rice cookers to be had. And sometimes, when you’re at an air bnb and the rice craving hits, all you have is a pot.

So, I learned how to make rice in a pot. Mike was actually the one who taught me because somehow he knows rice magic. The secret is: no peeking. You have to trust the rice. The rice will be alright, don’t ruin it by peeking and letting the steam out. Have faith in your rice cooking abilities and everything will be all rice )


Ingredents 1½ litres good chicken stock 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 40 g butter 2 golden French shallots, finely chopped 30 g piece smoked pancetta 320 g risotto rice (vialone nano or Arborio) 200 g (1½ cups) frozen peas 35 g (⅓ cup) grated parmesan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.

2. Heat the oil and half the butter in a large heavy-based large pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and piece of pancetta and cook gently for about 2 minutes.

3. Add three quarters of the stock to the rice. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas and cook for a further 6-7 minutes or until the rice is al dente.

4. Remove from the heat, discard the pancetta, then add the parmesan and remaining butter and stir well to release the starch. Season with salt and pepper and add an extra ladleful of stock to give it a slightly soupy finish.


  • Storage - Risi e Bisi leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Freezing - Risi e Bisi freezes well for up to 3 months. Cook it and allow it to cool then transfer to one or more freezer safe container before putting into the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
  • To reheat - Leftovers can be warmed gently in a pan on the stove top or can be microwaved at 30 to 60 second intervals until piping hot. Have a little extra stock on hand to loosen it up with because it will likely thicken up a lot. Simply add a drop or two as its warming and stir it in well until you get the consistency you want.
  • If you prepped the Risi e Bisi ahead of time as per my instructions above - Remove it from the fridge, put it in a pan and add the frozen peas that you omitted earlier. Give it a stir to combine, then reheat gently until piping hot, stirring frequently. Add a little more stock to thin as necessary.

If you are enjoying this recipe you might also like these other popular rice-based recipes:

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Recipe Summary

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
  • 2 ½ cups organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen green peas, thawed

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan sauté 5 minutes or until golden. Add rice to pan sauté 1 minute. Add broth, 2 cups water, salt, and pepper to pan bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheese, parsley, and peas cook 2 minutes.


Venetian-Style Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

"Risi e Bisi" ("rice and peas") is a very classic Venetian recipe, traditionally made with peas from the towns of Lumignano or Borso del Grappa. It's more liquidy than a risotto but not quite a soup, or minestra, falling instead somewhere in between in terms of consistency -- something like a thick soup. Use fresh green peas for this dish. It's traditionally made with short-grain Vialone Nano rice (not Carnaroli, which is used for risotto), but if you can't find it, you may substitute Arborio or Carnaroli. While it might seem like a humble peasant dish, it was traditionally offered to Venice's ruler the Doge in the Palazzo Ducale on April 25, the Feast Day of San Marco, the city's patron saint.

Traditionally the shelled pea pods are boiled in salted water and then that water is used to make the dish (sometimes with the addition of the pureed cooked pods themselves), but to make this a quicker and easier version, we'll use vegetable broth. If you'd like to go the more traditional route, however, feel free to simmer the pods in 6 cups of salted water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour and use that in place of the broth.


Recipe: Risi e Bisi

Commemorate the Feast of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, with a dish that celebrates the bounty of springtime.

Sweet green peas herald the arrival of springtime&mdashand in Venice, capital of Italy&rsquos Veneto region, they are appropriately celebrated in this creamy rice dish. Somewhere between a soup and a risotto, risi e bisi is traditionally served on April 25 for the Feast of St. Mark.

According to legend, as St. Mark waded in a Venetian lagoon, an angel appeared to him in the form of a winged lion. &ldquoPeace be with you Mark,&rdquo the angel said. &ldquoHere your body will rest.&rdquo In 828, taking this story quite literally, two Venetian merchants set out to steal the saint&rsquos relics, which resided in Alexandria, Egypt. They wisely determined the best way to hide anything of value from Muslims: cover it with piles of pork. No one disturbed them as they pushed a cart of pig carcasses through the streets of Alexandria, and their return to Venice was met with great fanfare. From that point on, Mark was the patron saint of the city, and the winged lion that appeared to him became the official emblem of both Venice and the Veneto region.

In the days of the Venetian Republic, risi e bisi was prepared on St. Mark&rsquos Day especially for the Doge, who received the season&rsquos first pea crop as a gift every year. While the dish today seems more rustic than royal, some would argue that it must not be ordered outside of the Veneto region, where rice is a staple crop and beloved even more than pasta. Given how easy the dish is to make, we prefer to buck tradition and prepare risi e bisi at home. For the sake of ease, we see nothing wrong with using frozen peas, which are picked at the peak of freshness. So technically, you don&rsquot even need to wait for spring.

Some cooks treat risi e bisi like risotto, ladling the stock by the spoonful and stirring constantly, but others say there&rsquos no need&mdashand, with ease in mind once again, we wholeheartedly agree. The finished dish should be soupy enough to eat with a spoon. In Italy, it&rsquos typically served as a first course&mdashbut you can buck tradition even further and serve it as a main course, alongside a fresh green salad.

Risi e Bisi: Venetian Rice and Peas

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, diced (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen peas, thawed (or fresh)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and sweat over low heat until translucent.
  2. Add pancetta and half the parsley and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the stock, peas, and rice. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until rice is tender and liquid is nearly absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in Parmigiano Reggiano, butter, and remaining parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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