Nov 7, 2011

Risi e Bisi recipe

We're talking gourmet comfort food. This is a rich Venetian springtime soup made with the slow cooked technique needed for making risotto, and freshly harvested tender baby peas. I learned how to make Risi e Bisi during one crazy edition of Regata Storica, a few years back. Venezia's historic scull race aboard vintage gondolas, mascarete, sandali and other beautifully ornate antique boats, annually falls on the first Sunday in September, usually messing up Film Festival boat traffic, and leaving stars and publicists stranded on the Lido peer, hopelessly waiting for their Riva motorboat taxi.
Venice, Regata Storica at sunset

The entire city of Venice and inhabitants of the six sestieri wards infact forget all divas and snob cinema flair, participating instead in loud hollering cheers, drinking and unplanned diving in canals from parked boats, madly rooting for their colorful team of upright rowers.

Here's the risi e bisi basics, as handed down by Angelo, the gondolier who kissed me:

1 onion
50 g (1/4 cup) pancetta, finely minced
400 g (2 cups/14 oz) Arborio or Vialone Nano rice
70 g (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil
70 g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) fresh baby peas, unshelled Note: don't discard the shells!
Freshly grated Parmigiano

Begin making a green pea broth by cooking the saved shells of the peas in lightly salted water and then saving the strained liquid. For a richer outcome, Angelo suggests to boil the pea shells in chicken broth instead of water.

Finely slice the onion and sauté it in oil and butter with the pancetta in a large pot.

When the onion tans, add 1 handful of rice + 1, per each person, and cook, stirring constantly. Do this until the rice is translucent (about 5 minutes).

Here comes the fun part: add the green pea broth one ladle at a time, stirring constantly. When you see the rice has given off some starch and looks half done, add the peas.

When the rice is al dente, remove the pot from the stove, stir in una noce di burro (a gob of butter the size of a walnut) and a few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano. The recipe calls for flecks of flatleaf parsley, but if you've been reading this blog long enough, you'll know I'm not super keen on the herb.

In this recipe the rice should be cooked all'onda (behaving like a wave), in other words creamy and moist, rather than pudding-like firm, like regular risotto. You eat it with a spoon rather than a fork...
Risi e Bisi
Image © Rachel Roddy


  1. That looks and sounds so good...
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh - do love the idea of the pea broth! Love this dish. Wishing I was kissed by a gondolier.

  3. I love risi e bisi but … the gondelier who kissed you? Do tell!

  4. I can smell it now......


  5. Hi, I am back from my travels and trying to catch up with all my favourite bloggers. What a lot of great recipes to welcome me back to your blog this evening.

  6. mmmm sapori della mia terra... true, real comfort winter food, but really satisfying...

  7. Oh my! That looks so comforting and delicious. :-) I love that you got the recipe from the gondolier. :-)

  8. CChuck~
    I'm happy you like it ;)

    Anything can happen in Venice, and it often does!

    I had to suspect the cheeky fellow had an agenda when he offered to tour me and a girlfriend for a ridiculously low price, plus watch the Regata with him, aboard his gondola... For a peck on the lips (and a loud slap to the face) I got first hand at his mamma's recipe. Not bad.

    Indeed. How I wish I could replicate aromas for my blog readers...

    Welcome back, amica! Grab a glass and sit down next to me. We have a lot to catch up.

    Smart gal. Ciao bella.

    Sei veneta? Che fortuna!!

    Rambling Tart~
    Yeah! He snatched a kiss and I stole a recipe. Sounds fair, no?