Risi e bisi (pronounced REE-see ay BEE-see) is a classic Venetian dish. It's somewhat like a risotto but a little soupier to where you will be using a spoon. I really enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of this dish in every way. The peas are sweet and pair so nicely with the leeks and other flavors from the broth and light seasonings. This recipe makes a large batch so feel free to cut the recipe in half.
This lovely recipe is inspired and adapted from NPR Kitchen Window, A Fresh Pod Cast: Savoring Springs Green Peas.
I decided to use frozen petite peas for this as I honestly didn't feel like shelling 4 lbs. of peas. Please don't judge me. :) I think this is how most of you will be cooking this as frozen peas are convenient. But of course, fresh peas are best and will yield a lovely flavor. Try not to eat them all before they go into the recipe either. I know I can eat these peas by the handfuls. They are so sweet and tender that I can't get enough of them.
Then we bring in the mild flavors of leeks and bay leaves. I used two medium sized leeks, light green and white parts only, slicing them thinly. I also chopped about 1/3 of the thinly sliced batch so there would be some smaller onion like pieces too (this is optional).
I used this sprouted brown grain rice from Planet Rice that I picked up from my local grocery store. It was about $4 for a 20 oz bag. Using this rice I found that I needed to add a little extra cooking time to achieve the texture I was looking for. They do have a lightly milled spouted brown rice that will cook a bit faster, then you won't need the extra cooking time at the end like I needed. Traditionally the rice used in this dish is a risotto rice like Arborio rice, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano which are grown in Italy.
As mentioned in the Food & Wine recipe, it is said by the cooks in Venetia that for each grain of rice there should be a pea.
Risi E Bisi (Rice and Peas)
Ingredients (serves 6 - 8)
- 6 - 8 cups vegetable broth OR water with 3 Repunzel Vegetable Bouillons
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, thinly sliced OR one onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups sprouted brown rice, arborio or any medium grain rice of choice
- 4 cups fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped and loosly packed
- mineral salt and pepper, to taste
- almond parmesan, for topping (not shown)
In a medium saucepan, place the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Add in the bay leaves, nutritional yeast and keep broth warm.
In a large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until just softened, about five minutes (remove and set aside a few tablespoons of the leeks for topping if desired). Add garlic and rice, toss until rice is nicely coated, about 3 minutes.
Add in warm broth, one cup at a time, the stock should be bubbly. Stir often allowing the broth to be just absorbed. Add in another cup of broth, repeat. Add in peas, more stock and continue the process for another 15 minutes or so, or until the rice is al dente, tender but chewy. The whole process should be about 25 minutes or so. Note: Using the sprouted brown rice, at the end I covered my rice and peas and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes until rice was ready to my liking.
Add in more broth and stir. Your rice and peas should be a little soupy. Remove from heat, taste for seasoning and stir in parsley. Remove any bay leaves that made it into the rice and peas. Serve topped with a nice dusting of almond parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.
Quick method: After sauteing the leeks and rice as above. Add at least 7 cups broth, peas, bay leaves and nutritional yeast, bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 - 30 minutes until rice is tender. Remove from heat add in parsley. Let set a few minutes and serve as desired.
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And if you were thinking about subbing quinoa for the rice, go ahead, it's delicious too as pictured below (this is actually my preferred grain, I love everything about it...but then this dish isn't called Risi E Bisi). Top with Almond Parmesan like shown and your good to go. Truly wonderful!
How to make using quinoa...
In large pot, heat oil and saute leeks, about five minutes. Add 2 cups rinsed quinoa and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add 7 cups broth, bay leaves, nutritional yeast, bring to a boil. Add in peas, do not stir, cover and simmer for about 20 - 25 minutes. Test quinoa for tenderness by tasting. Turn of heat, uncover and let set for about 10 - 15 minutes until broth is mostly absorbed. It will thicken upon standing, add more warm broth as needed for desired soupiness. Remove bay leaves. Toss in parsley, taste for seasoning and serve.
This method with the quinoa will leave you with wonderful leftovers. Quinoa holds up well and reheats beautifully the next day.