Risi e Bisi (fresh pea risotto)
I’ve wanted to make this beautiful fresh pea risotto forever, but buying fresh peas in their pods at the supermarket is expensive. But then a few weeks ago we took the little boys to a ‘pick your own’ farm and plucked 2kgs of pea pods for £2.90 – bargain. Risi e bisi was on.
This recipe is famous in the Veneto region of Italy. The risottos in Venice are made with the Vialone Nano risotto rice as it gives the final risotto a lovely soupy consistency. Vialone Nano is the same price as the more popular Arborio risotto rice, but it’s harder to find. Waitrose is one of the few supermarkets that sell it (I listed it when I was the Grocery Ingredients buyer a few years ago as I knew it would be perfect for this type of risotto – it’s also the best one to use in seafood risottos).
Making this risotto is a labour of love, but it is absolutely worth it if you get the chance to pick some super fresh peas and make the stock from the discarded pea pods. Any leftover pea pod stock can be frozen and then used to make more risotto with frozen peas.
If you can’t get your hands on some in season fresh pea pods, then you can make easily this risotto in a much shorter time (approx. 30 minutes) with frozen peas and vegetable or chicken stock.
Miraculous ingredients: peas, Vialone nano risotto rice, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan)
Fresh pea risotto
680g fresh peas (or frozen peas if fresh are unavailable)
25g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion finely chopped
1 garlic clove finely chopped
20g fresh parsley, stalks removed and finely chopped
300g Vialone nano risotto rice (or Carnaroli risotto rice)
Freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano
Coarse sea salt to season
Stock ingredients (or 1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock if fresh pea pods are unavailable)
Pea pods, use the discarded pea pods from shelling the peas
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 onion, cut into quarters
Make the pea stock first. Remove the peas from the pea pods and set to one side. Rinse the pea pods and put them in a big high sided sauce pan (a stock pot). Add the quartered onion, roughly chopped carrot, celery stick, a teaspoon of salt and cover with water (about 1.5 litres). Simmer for 1 hour with the lid on. Add more water if too much evaporates. Strain out the pods and vegetables and adjust the flavour of the stock with salt.
Place a large frying pan (with high sides) on a low heat to start warming while you prepare the ingredients. Melt half of the unsalted butter in the warm pan with the olive oil and stir in the chopped onion. Leave the onion to sweat and slightly colour on the medium heat. Add the garlic, stir and fry for 20 seconds.
Add the peas, a little water (just enough to reach half way up the peas) and the chopped parsley. Cook for about 10 minutes so the peas are almost done (they should still be fairly hard to bite) and most of the water has evaporated.
Add all the rice, salt and stir well. Now start adding the hot pea pod stock (or vegetable or chicken stock) to the pan in small amounts, just enough stock to cover the bottom of the pan each time, while stirring every now and again so the rice starts absorbing the liquid.
Adding all the stock and stirring the risotto will take at least 20 minutes. The rice will be cooked when the grains have plumped up to 3 times their size and they are soft to eat with a slight bite or hardness right in the middle of the grain. The texture of this risotto needs to be all’onda - quite soupy at this stage and the rice looks creamy. All’onda means ‘wavy’, when you tilt the pan the surface of the rice should ripple like waves in the ocean!
You might find you need more or less stock depending on the type of risotto rice or brand you use.
Turn the heat off and stir in the remaining unsalted butter (this will give the risotto creaminess and a glossy shine) and as much Parmigiano Reggiano as you like. The parmesan will thicken the risotto which is why you need to cook it to be soupy so after the cheese is added it’s not too stodgy.
Taste and check the risotto for seasoning. You might need to add more salt.
Using fresh peas and pods for stock: Preparation time 30 minutes, cooking 1 hour and 20 minutes, 2 adult portions, 2 child portions
Using frozen peas and stock: Preparation time 10 minutes, cooking 40 minutes, 2 adult portions, 2 child portions