Why Risi e Bisi?
You will not often find me in the frozen food aisle of a supermarket. To me frozen vegetables are a nightmare. I shudder at the thought of having to eat a vegetable that some how has lost all taste and feels like watery mush in your mouth. The exception however, is frozen peas.
Fresh peas are a pure delight to eat, especially at the end of spring when I strongly suggest you try to buy them. However, I have to admit I am a big supporter of frozen peas to get you by for the remainder of the year. Peas somehow loose the least after the freezing process and retain their sweetness and colour nearly perfectly, leaving one to enjoy them all year round.
Risi e Bisi (rice and peas) is an Italian dish from the Veneto region that is a perfect dish for frozen peas. Traditionally this dish is served as a ‘wet’ risotto having the consistency similar to soup, but thick enough to be eaten with a fork. Like with many recipes I can’t help but change them slightly. I make my risi e bisi the same consistency of risotto and add a little fresh mint.
200g Vialone Nano rice (or Arborio)
2 tablespoons butter
100g pancetta cut into small cubes the same size as peas
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cups chicken stock
450 g frozen peas
1/4 bunch parsley, finely chopped
8 mint leaves, finely chopped
In a large heavy based pan melt one tablespoon butter and sweat the onions and pancetta on a low heat. Cook until the onions are translucent but have no colour. Add the rice and stir until all grains are glossy.
Add one cup of stock and cook on a medium high heat stirring continuously until the liquid is absorbed. Add the second cup of stock but do not stir. Allow the liquid to absorb before add the third cup. Before adding the fourth cup check the rice. If the rice is nearly cooked with a little crunch in the centre add the frozen peas and stir until the peas are tender. If the rice is still quite hard add a little stock and test the rice again when the stock has absorbed.
When the peas are tender take off the heat and stir in the rest of the butter. This will make the rice creamy. Add the parsley and mint and season with salt and pepper.
Remember that like risotto you want the rice to be slightly moist but not wet. It is good to have a little liquid in the pan when you take the risi e bisi off the heat, as the rice will continue to absorb liquid.
Serves 6 as a side dish.