Risi e bisi

by Angela Clutton

A classic Venetian dish of fresh peas and risotto rice

‘Rice and peas’ may not sound all that inspiring as a dish but if this happens to be your first encounter with rìsi e bìsi please reserve your judgement. Those who’ve tried it will know that the delicious sweetness of freshly podded peas gives this not-quite-risotto a flavour lift. It is ‘not quite’ risotto because you want to end up with the consistency of a thick soup—allowing you to enjoy some of the flavour the pea pods give to the stock. Finish with umami-rich parmesan and this is heavenly comfort food.


1kg fresh peas in their pods
2 onions
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
70g pancetta lardons (optional)
300g risotto carnaroli rice
50g freshly grated parmesan
A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped


Shell the peas and set them aside while you concentrate on making the most of the sweet pods. Cut one of the onions in half. Bring 1 litre of water to boil in a large pan, drop in the pea pods, the halved onion and the bay leaves. Simmer for 5 mins, strain and discard the solids so you now have a pea-pod stock to make the rest of the meal with.

Chop the remaining onion. Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a deep frying pan and cook the onions over a low heat for 10 mins or until just softening. Add the pancetta (if using) and continue sautéing until the pancetta is just starting to brown.

Add the rice and stir so that every grain is covered in the juices in the pan. Season with salt and pepper then add in a couple of ladles of pea-pod stock. Allow the rice to absorb the liquid then add more ladles of stock. Repeat the process—stirring occasionally, rather than continuously as you would a risotto—until the rice is just about cooked and the dish has the consistency of a thick soup. It will take 15-20 mins. If you run out of stock just use some water. Add the podded peas when you get to about halfway with the stock.

Take off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, half of the parmesan and the parsley. Serve with plenty of black pepper and the rest of the parmesan on the table for people to help themselves to.

Recipe: Angela Clutton