Rice and Peas: A rich and creamy Venetian springtime classic packed with lots of fresh flavours.
I said it before, and I will say it again – food is an essential part to discover a destination.
When you travel to Italy, you won’t be hard pressed to find fantastic food everywhere you go. However, you might be surprised to find no such thing than a traditional Italian dish. Instead, each region is known their own local specialities and typical ingredients.
Venice, the capital city of Veneto in northeast Italy, is famous for many things. But no visit is complete without the city’s amazing cicchetti. These little snacks similar to Spanish tapas are totally irresistible.
Though this pea risotto is arguably more a primo, thus a starter instead of an appetizer, locally it is traditionally served in small portions, often in small cups. Thus it resembles more an appetizer and today many of the bars and restaurants serving cicchetti include this local classic.
Today Risi e Bisi (which literally translates into Rice and Peas) is served year-round. However traditionally it’s a springtime recipe which in the past was prepared only with freshly harvested peas. Indeed, Risi e Bisi is still one of the most classic dishes served in celebration of the city’s patron saint, Saint Mark on April 25th.
By the way, traditionally, this is not a classic risotto. Instead, while it’s prepared like risotto, it’s served with still enough vegetable broth left to be considered a soup.
You will find many Italian chefs arguing only fresh peas can be used for the dish, or you will never get the perfect taste. However, if you really can’t find fresh peas, tinned peas still work quite well.
And here is another tweak to the traditional recipe, which calls for diced ham. Which I have substituted in my recipe with Spanish chorizo for an extra punch of texture and flavour.
Locally, Risi e Bisi is prepared with Vialone Nano risotto, a type of risotto from Veneto which might be difficult to buy outside of Italy. Thankfully, the dish will taste equally as good using Arborio or Carnaroli risotto, which are more common internationally.
So if you want to eat like a Venetian, this easy risotto recipe should be on top of your list.
Pair it with a crisp white form Italy’s Veneto like Soave or Lugana, or if like me you love bubbles, go for a nice prosecco.
On the occasion of Festa di San Marco (the Feast of Saint Mark) I could not resist to open one of the excellent Prosecco Superiore from Valdobbiadene, the very heart of the prosecco region.
Family-owned Bisol winery, one of the heavyweights of prosecco production, has cultivated grapes in the prestigious Valdobbiadene area since nearly 500 years. Today, the winery produces a range of organically farmed Prosecco Superiore sparkling wines.
Tasting Notes: Bisol Relio Riva di Guia Prosecco Brut Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG
Named after Aurelio (Relio) Bisol, a family member of the Bisol winery, grapes for the Bisol Reilio Riva di Guia come from the single vineyard ‘Riva di Guia’. It’s located on the steepest slopes of the area, where cultivation and harvest all have to be done manually.
In the glass, a light straw-yellow with lime-green reflections. Fine, rich, and persistent perlage.
On the nose, intense mineral and fruity aromas of apples and sweet pears followed by floral notes.
On the palate, mild and well-balanced with refreshing fruit acid. Fresh and long finish.
Like many of the excellent prosecco wines from the Valdobbiadene area, this is a fantastic sparkler to be enjoyed as aperitif on its own, or paired with cured meats, seafood, pasta, and risotto.
Recipe: Risi e Bisi Pea Risotto
300 g risotto
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
200 ml dry white wine
800 ml vegetable broth
250 g green peas (preferably fresh)
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
180 g chorizo, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
50 g freshly grated parmesan, plus more for serving
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add onion fry until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for about one minute until fragrant.
Add risotto and cook for about two minutes until translucent, while stirring constantly. Add wine and continue to cook until almost completely evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Add the peas, then start to add vegetable broth in small quantities, stir to combine and cook until the broth is fully absorbed. Continue to add more broth and cook until the rice is soft, for about 25-30 minutes.
Please note, if you are using tinned peas, add only after about half of the cooking time.
Stir in chorizo and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, then stir in parmesan and parsley.
Serve with some additional freshly grated parmesan on top.