Risi e bisi (Fresh Pea Risotto)

This is a classic Venetian dish which I make every spring as soon fresh peas start appearing in the green market.


2 pounds fresh peas, unshelled

4 cups cold water

Coarse grained salt

3 cups either vegetable or chicken broth preferably homemade

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium Vidalia onion, finely chopped (approximately one cup)

1 leek, carefully washed, white part only, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

2 cups short grained rice such as Arborio, Vialone Nano, Carnaroli

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 ½ cup fresh peas (either fresh from shelled peas or frozen)

1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

1 Tablespoon freshly grated lemon rind

3 Tablespoons sweet butter

¾ cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste



Cooking directions:

1.  Shell the peas reserving both the peas and their pods. Set aside.


2.  Thoroughly wash the pods. Put into a large pot with approximately 4 cups of cold water.


3.  Add salt to taste and simmer for an hour over a medium heat.


4.  Stain out vegetable peels and pea pods. Add additional broth and keep on the back burner over a low heat as you start rest of preparation.


5.  Heat olive oil in a medium sized skillet over a medium flame.


6.  Add the chopped onion, leek and celery and sauté for five minutes.


7.  Add the rice and stir for 3-4 minutes until toasted. 


8.  Add wine and stir carefully.  Cook until liquid is almost absorbed.


9.  Continuing to stir, start adding the broth, a ladle at a time. Right before the liquid is absorbed, add more liquid.


10.              Cook until rice is creamy but still al dente. The whole cooking time should take 18-20 minutes.


11.              Add fresh peas and fresh tarragon two minutes before the end and stir.


12.              Remove from the heat, add lemon peel, butter and Parmigiano cheese and one last ladle of liquid.  Mix well. If the consistency is too thick, add a little more broth.


13.              Season with salt and pepper.


14.              Serve immediately in heated bowls.


15.              Serve with a bowl of additional grated cheese.


Serves:  6-8 portions

Wine suggestion:  Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, Tocai Friulano or Sauvignon Blanc