Venetian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi) | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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With cucina povera, a simple dish of rice and peas tastes richly complex
Milk Street Bowtie Venetian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

Venetian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

Appears in May-June 2021

1¼ hours

Venetian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

Free

Rice and peas, or risi e bisi, is a classic Venetian dish, traditionally eaten on April 25, St. Mark’s Day. Much like risotto, the rice is rich and creamy because of the starchiness of the grains and how they are cooked. But risi e bisi typically is a bit soupier. Sweet peas stud the dish, and in the version taught to us by Michela Tasca, owner of Ca’ de Memi farm and bed and breakfast in Piombino Dese outside of Venice, the al dente grains were bathed in beautiful pale green broth, a result of peas pureed into the cooking liquid. For our version, we puree peas plus fresh parsley with a small amount of a broth infused with aromatics. To keep the flavors and color vibrant, we hold off on adding the puree, along with additional whole peas, until the rice has finished cooking. Pancetta provides salty, meaty backbone and fennel seeds, with their notes of licorice, complement the grassy, sweetness of the peas. Vialone nano is the preferred variety of Italian medium-grain rice for risi e bisi, but easier to find Arborio works just as well.

4-6

Servings

Tip

Don’t thaw all of the peas. The 1 cup of peas that’s blended with hot broth and parsley should be kept frozen so that the puree remains a brilliant green; the 1 cup stirred in at the end should be fully thawed and at room temperature so the peas don’t cool the rice.

1¼ hours

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, half thinly sliced, half finely chopped
1 medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup still frozen, 1 cup thawed and at room temperature)
2 cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
3-4 ounces pancetta, finely chopped
4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided
1 cup vialone nano or Arborio rice
Ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve
Ingredients
  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1

    large white onion, half thinly sliced, half finely chopped

  • 1

    medium celery stalk, thinly sliced

  • 2

    teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 1

    quart low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2

    cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup still frozen, 1 cup thawed and at room temperature)

  • 2

    cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, finely chopped

  • 4

    tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided

  • 1

    cup vialone nano or Arborio rice

  • Ground black pepper

  • 2

    ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    In a large pot, combine the carrot, the sliced onion, celery, fennel seeds, 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. 02
    Remove the pot from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining off as much liquid as possible. Add 1 cup of the broth to the blender along with the still-frozen peas and the parsley; leave the remaining broth in the pot so it remains warm. Blend until the mixture is smooth, 1½ to 2 minutes; you should have about 3 cups puree. Set aside in the blender jar.
  3. 03
    In a large saucepan over medium, combine the chopped onion, pancetta and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and the pancetta is rendered and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, then stir in 1 cup of the broth. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes. Ladle in additional broth to barely cover the rice and simmer, stirring often, until the broth is mostly absorbed. Repeat the addition of broth and simmering until mostly absorbed 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the broth has been used; this process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. 04
    Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the thawed peas and the puree, then stir until heated through, about 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir until melted. Stir in the Parmesan, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with additional Parmesan.
Tip: Don’t thaw all of the peas. The 1 cup of peas that’s blended with hot broth and parsley should be kept frozen so that the puree remains a brilliant green; the 1 cup stirred in at the end should be fully thawed and at room temperature so the peas don’t cool the rice.
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Venetian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi)

Get Ready to Cook

4-6

Servings

1¼ hours

Tip

Don’t thaw all of the peas. The 1 cup of peas that’s blended with hot broth and parsley should be kept frozen so that the puree remains a brilliant green; the 1 cup stirred in at the end should be fully thawed and at room temperature so the peas don’t cool the rice.

Ingredients
  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1

    large white onion, half thinly sliced, half finely chopped

  • 1

    medium celery stalk, thinly sliced

  • 2

    teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 1

    quart low-sodium chicken broth

  • 2

    cups frozen peas, divided (1 cup still frozen, 1 cup thawed and at room temperature)

  • 2

    cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 3-4

    ounces pancetta, finely chopped

  • 4

    tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces, divided

  • 1

    cup vialone nano or Arborio rice

  • Ground black pepper

  • 2

    ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve

Step 1 of 4

Add Vegetables to Pot

1
medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1
large white onion, half thinly sliced
1
medium celery stalk, thinly sliced
2
teaspoons fennel seeds
1
quart low-sodium chicken broth

In a large pot, combine the carrot, the sliced onion, celery, fennel seeds, 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.

Step 2 of 4

Create Pea-Mixture

1
cup frozen peas
2
cups lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley

Remove the pot from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the solids to a blender, draining off as much liquid as possible.


Add 1 cup of the broth to the blender along with the still-frozen peas and the parsley; leave the remaining broth in the pot so it remains warm.


Blend until the mixture is smooth, 1½ to 2 minutes; you should have about 3 cups puree. Set aside in the blender jar.

Step 3 of 4

Combine In Saucepan

1
large white onion, half finely chopped
3-4
ounces pancetta, finely chopped
2
tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1
cup vialone nano or Arborio rice

In a large saucepan over medium, combine the chopped onion, pancetta and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned and the pancetta is rendered and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.


Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with fat, then stir in 1 cup of the broth. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 5 minutes. Ladle in additional broth to barely cover the rice and simmer, stirring often, until the broth is mostly absorbed.


Repeat the addition of broth and simmering until mostly absorbed 4 or 5 times, until the rice is al dente and most of the broth has been used; this process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

Step 4 of 4

Finish and Serve

1
cup thawed peas at room temperature
2
tablespoons salted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
2
ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 cup), plus more to serve
Ground black pepper

Remove the pan from the heat and let stand uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the thawed peas and the puree, then stir until heated through, about 1 minute.


Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir until melted. Stir in the Parmesan, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with additional Parmesan.

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