Risi e Bisi | Authentic Venetian Rice and Peas

“Risi e Bisi” simply means Rice and Peas in Venetian dialect. It’s a main dish typical of the Venetian cuisine, especially of the cities of Venice and Vicenza, now spread throughout northern Italy.

This Italian rice and peas recipe is a real comfort food, a mix between a risotto and a soup. It should be soft and creamy, neither too dry nor too runny.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

Risi e Bisi is a typical spring dish, because of the fresh peas served with their pods. In fact, the authentic Venetian recipe calls for the use of the pods in the preparation of this dish. This is the very feature that makes this plate special!

Risi e Bisi is a complete, rich dish, so much so that you can even think of it as a single dish. In fact for this recipe you must add even pancetta, butter and parmigiano cheese, to make it richer and creamier. 

Risi e Bisi is a simple recipe with a truly exceptional taste that everyone will love! Now find out how to make authentic Italian Risi e Bisi recipe by following our step-by-step directions and tips.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

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Risi e Bisi Recipe (Italian Rice and Peas)

  • Prep Time: 30 Min
  • Cook Time: 1H10Min + 1H for the broth
  • Yields : 4

Ingredients

PLEASE NOTE

The authentic Italian recipe calls for the use of chicken broth, or more precisely hen broth. Obviously, if you choose to be faithful to tradition, the preparation times are extended by about 1 hour. But don’t worry, in any case the vegetable broth will do just fine.

To learn more about how to prepare both vegetable broth and chicken broth, check out our recipes: Homemade Meat Broth recipe and Vegetable Stock Recipe.

  • 350 g (2 1/3 cups) of “Vialone Nano” rice
  • 1 kg (about 2 pounds) of fresh peas with pods
  • 1 liter (4 cups) of vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 60 g (about 1/2 stick) of unsulted butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 g (2 oz) of pancetta
  • 50 g (1/2 cup) of Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • Fine salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

How to Make Risi e Bisi: Directions

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 1

Step 1) – First, prepare a vegetable or chicken broth, according to your taste. Of course, you can prepare it the day before and keep it in the refrigerator.

Then shell the peas, keeping the pods aside. Once you have shelled all the pods, wash them well under running water.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 2

Step 2) – Boil the pods in lightly salted water for about 45 minutes. Once cooked, blend them with an immersion blender until they are a thick puree. Then pour the puree into a colander to collect the liquid and remove the fibrous part.

Keep the liquid thus collected warm; we’ll use it in the following steps.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 3

Step 3) – Now chop the onion and cut the pancetta into small pieces. Place the oil, half the butter, onion and pancetta in a large skillet.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 4

Step 4) – Sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then add the chopped parsley as well.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 5

Step 5) – Now add the peas and two ladles of broth. Cook for about 5 minutes.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 6

Step 6) – Then add the green juice made from the pods, season to taste with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat and add the rice.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 7

Step 7) – Cook slowly for about 15 minutes. While cooking, stir risi and bisi from time to time and, if they get too dry, add more broth. REMEMBER: the consistency is not that of a risotto but more that of a thick soup.

When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add the other half of the butter.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas step 8

Step 8) – Then add the grated Parmigiano cheese and stir. The authentic Venetian recipe for Risi e Bisi is ready! Serve immediately and piping hot.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

Storage

Ideally, you should eat risi e bisi immediately. However, if you have leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

When it’s time to reheat it, we suggest adding a little vegetable broth or water to regain the right consistency.

Risi e Bisi with Frozen or Canned Peas

If the recipe for rice with fresh peas takes too long or is not in season and you can’t find fresh peas with their pods, you can simply use frozen or canned peas.

We recommend blending half of the boiled peas with a ladle of broth. This way you will have a green and creamy part that will replace, also aesthetically, the broth made with the pea pods.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

Lighter version

If you want to make a light version of the risi e bisi, first of all use the vegetable broth and not the chicken one.

You can also replace the butter with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the bacon with Parma ham.

Risi e bisi, Vegetarian Recipe

Although the main ingredients in this recipe are rice and peas, we cannot consider it a vegetarian recipe.

The authentic version includes chicken broth and there is pancetta in the sauce.

We mentioned in the paragraph above that you can use vegetable broth to have a lighter version, maybe we can even replace the butter with oil.

But if we also remove the pancetta or parma ham we will have a good risotto with peas but it certainly cannot be considered the authentic Venetian recipe of “risi e bisi”.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

Risi e Bisi: Risotto or Soup?

Risi e Bisi is a genuine comfort food, a cross between a risotto and a soup. It should be soft and creamy, neither too dry nor too runny.

The custom is to eat Risi e Bisi with a spoon and not with a fork as is done for risotto.

Moreover broth is added all at once and not gradually as it is done for risotto.

For these reasons it is better to consider Risi e Bisi as a thick soup rather than a risotto.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

What Kind of Rise to Use to Make Risi e Bisi recipe?

They traditionally prepare this rice and pea recipe with a quality of Italian rice called Vialone Nano.

Vialone Nano rice is a variety of Italian rice suitable for the preparation of soft risottos and rice soups. It is, together with Carnaroli and Arborio, one of the most appreciated and used qualities of rice in Italy.

Vialone Nano is a semi-fine rice and its grains are of medium size and with a rounded shape.

The variety of Vialone Nano rice was obtained in 1937, in the Experimental Station of Risiculture of Vercelli. The most famous province, however, for the cultivation of Vialone Nano is Verona, where the rice has been produced for about 500 years.

The characteristics of Vialone Nano make it one of the best rice varieties for the preparation of the typical Italian risotto “all’onda“, that is a soft and creamy risotto.

This variety of rice does not cook easily and absorbs sauces very well. It’s also rich in starch and it’s perfect for risottos with meat and vegetables, such as Risi and Bisi.

risi e bisi_Italian rice and peas

Origins and History of Risi e Bisi Recipe

Risi e bisi is one of the basic dishes of the traditional cuisine of Veneto.

In the area of Vicenza, between the tenth and eleventh centuries, Benedictine monks began to cultivate a very valuable quality of pea, now known as Bisi di Lumignano.

The uniqueness and delicacy of these peas have made the risi e bisi dish a true delicacy. So much so that on April 25th, in honor of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, the population offered the Doge this dish with its regal flavor.

Some believe instead that the origin of risi e bisi is Byzantine. The oriental peoples, in fact, who had intense commercial exchanges with the Venetians, often accompanied the rice with vegetables of all kinds.

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