Risi e bisi (Rice and peas)

 

“Risi, bisi e fragole!” (literally meaning: ‘rice, peas and strawberries’) was a partisan cry in the area around Venezia during the 1800s Austrian occupation. It actually meant “white, green and red” – the colors of the Italian flag – and it was a sort of rallying cry against the Austrian empire… but deniable enough in case you were caught by the enemy. The reason? Risi e bisi (without the strawberries) was and still is one of the typical dishes of the region, so it was plausible for the motto to be just a wandering food seller doing his job. Today risi e bisi is simply a delicacy better eaten in Spring, when the peas are sweeter and tastier. It is a unique middle ground between a risotto and a soup, whose original recipe calls for a very strong meat broth. Since we are not gondoliers, we’ll better stick to an all-vegetable variant – it’s finer and a little less full of excess calories. Another variation consists in the use of a blender and a sieve for the pods, instead of peeling them by hand according to tradition. Believe us, you prefer our method.

 

Ingredients

 

  • 350 g Vialone Nano rice
  • 1 kg fresh peas with their pods
  • 3 l vegetable broth
  • 60 g butter
  • 50 g pancetta
  • 40 g Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 1 white onion
  • 30 g parsley, ground
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper, ground
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

 

 

Preparation

 

Take the peas out of their pods, thoroughly wash the pods and rinse them. Put the pods in a pot filled with cold broth, place a lid on it and cook for one hour after it starts boiling. When the time’s up, finely blend it all, then pass the result through a sieve to remove the harder remains of the pods. Keep the puree warm and move on to the rice. Melt half of the butter in a large pot, throw the chopped onion into it and cook until golden, then add the parsley and the diced pancetta. Remember: bacon and pancetta look the same, but they are not. Making an effort to get the real thing will make your dish a lot better. Cook for just a couple of minutes, then add the peas and one tablespoon of oil. Add a couple of ladles of warm water, cook for five more minutes, then add the puree. Stir, wait until it boils and drop the rice in. You really want to use the Vialone Nano type: your ordinary risotto rice would suck up too much liquid, ruining the recipe. This is also the time to add your salt and pepper according to your taste. Cook al dente (meaning: cooked but rather chewy) stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon. The goal is to make it a thick soup that won’t drip if you pick it up with a fork. Now kill the flame and drop the remaining butter and the cheese in, mixing thoroughly to a uniform consistence. Are you hungry yet?