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Risi e bisi – rice and peas

Risi e bisi – rice and peas

PT1H

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.

1
Shell the peas then place the empty pods, carrot and onion in a large saucepan together with the water and salt
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2
Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid to use as stock
3
Melt the butter with a little olive oil in a large, non-stick saucepan. Soften the onion over a low heat until translucent, for about 3 minutes. Add the pancetta cubes and continue to cook until the pancetta has turned pink, for about another 3 minutes
4
Add the rice to the pan, turn up the heat slightly and mix together with the onion and pancetta, stirring all the time with a wooden spatula. After 3–4 minutes, pour in all of the Prosecco – there will be a dramatic 'woosh' and a cloud of steam
5
Begin to add the stock, one ladleful at a time, and keep stirring until it has all been absorbed by the rice. Repeat this process until the rice is almost cooked, but still a little al dente. This will take about 15 minutes depending on the rice. About halfway through the cooking time, add the podded peas and adjust the seasoning
6
Remove the risotto from the heat, cover, and leave to rest for about 5 minutes. In this time the rice will continue to cook
7
Add the stracchino cheese and fold it into the risotto until it has melted. If the risotto is too dry at this point add another ladleful of stock
8
Serve immediately in bowls, topped with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and a little chopped parsley. Enjoy with the rest of the bottle of Prosecco
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