Venetian Rice and Peas
(Risi e Bisi)

Serves 6


If you prepare this on April 25, you will be carrying on an ancient tradition that dates from the days of the Republic of Venice. This springtime dish of creamy rice and peas was, and still is, made in Venice and its surroundings area to celebrate the feast day of its patron, Saint Mark. Almost the consistency of a soup, risi e bisi should be served as a course of its own. In days past, risi e bisi was presented on Saint Mark's Day with much ceremony to the doge, the leader of Venice. You can streamline this dish by using frozen small peas. To get the delicate flavor of the pea-pod-scented stock, substitute about 1/4 pound of fresh sugar snap peas for the pea pods. For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.


2 quarts Light Chicken Stock
2 pounds fresh young English green peas, shelled, pods reserved
1/2 pound imported prosciutto including the fat, cut into small dice
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
6 tablespoons 3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups arborio or other short-grain Italian rice, such as carnaroli
1/2 cup dry white vermouth
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley


1. In a 3-quart pot with a lid, combine the Light Chicken Stock and pea pods. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes to flavor the broth with the pea pods. Strain and reserve the broth, discarding the pods.

2. In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, cook the prosciutto and onion in 4 tablespoons of the butter, stirring constantly, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the vermouth and about 2 cups of the reserved broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Continue to add the broth in 2-cup increments, stirring occasionally and waiting until the previous addition is absorbed before adding more.

3. When about half the broth (4 cups) has been added, stir in the peas, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook until all the liquid has been added and the dish is creamy and almost soupy. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cheese, parsley, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve immediately.


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by Aliza Green
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ISBN: 0762419318
Recipe reprinted by permission.




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