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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Misty Water-Colored Memories

I have the best memories of the risi e bisi I made in law school out of an old Food & Wine magazine.  Cue "Evergreen," a/k/a, the theme to The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand, an actress/singer I've never understood.  Risi e bisi is a classic Italian recipe, basically risotto with peas.  David makes risotto with a pressure cooker and, don't get me wrong, it's great, but it's not really Italian grandmother-y.  I love the standing and standing for forty minutes to get the risotto creamy and just perfectly al dente.

Risi e bisi is Italian comfort food, and with a pound and a half of fresh English peas sitting in my fridge and pouring rain outside (welcome, Alaskan August!), it seemed like the perfect time to break out the recipe from Italian Cooking at Home.  The flaw in the CIA's recipe, though, is that instead of stirring in small amounts of warm stock at a time, the recipe calls for you to dump a large amount of stock in at the beginning.  The poor rice never had a chance, and became ever so slightly soggy.  Unfortunately, the circa 1997 recipe from Food & Wine doesn't seem to be online, so here's the revised CIA recipe:

Risi e bisi
Adapted from Italian Cooking at Home

2 quarts chicken stock, homemade or otherwise
2/3 cup chopped yellow onion
2 1/4 cups arborio or long-grain white pearl rice
2 cups peas, shelled, preferably fresh
6 tbsp. dry white wine
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Boil the chicken broth and keep it warm.  In a large pot, warm the oil over low heat and add onion.  Saute the onion over low heat without letting it brown, then add the rice, constantly stirring, until the grains become opalescent.  Watch out for burning.  Stir in the wine all at once and add the first dose of broth, about a cup.  Stir until the liquid is almost absorbed, then add by ladlefuls until the rice is just al dente.  You may have a bit of extra liquid.  The cooking should take about 20-25 minutes, but test the rice.  If it is too hard, add more broth and cook longer.  Whatever you do, don't let the rice get soggy!  There will be a little bit of brothy-ness to the dish.

When the rice is the desired consistency, pull from the heat and add the butter, cheese and parsley.  Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste.

Voila--classic Italian comfort food.  Serve with a dry, minerally white or rose.


  1. Strange instructions-dumping all the stock in at once..I love risotto but know that time is required and if I do not have it, I simply do not make it. I have never tried risotto with peas, but it certainly sounds like a great idea. Inspiring post!

  2. Oooh, in Germany, we bastardized this to be "Risibisi", and it's lovely. :) Your post brought back a lot of childhood memories!

  3. I make this every spring when the peas are tender and sweet. It's a tradition - and I love its tender care. Come to think of it, I'd swipe your bowl right now - just the thought of it warms me.

  4. Simple and mighty - risotto is so filling and hearty. I imagine its perfect on a rainy Alaskan night especially with a perfect wine to accompany it.

  5. I love risotto but I am always afraid to try it myself. Maybe this will be the recipe to use when I experiment! Thanks for sharing :D

  6. Risotto is once a while for us, in fact I can't remember when was the last time I made it though we had plenty during our trip to Italy.

    I like this simple and not so complicated version you made, lovely colors with the peas inside.

  7. I love risotto and I almost always add peas. They just seem like the perfect addition!