Risi e bisi
Let this gentle, soothing not-risotto of rice and peas come to your rescue.
Here’s the thing about risotto: when you really need its soothing, comforting charms the most, you won’t be in the mood to stand at your stove stirring for 20 minutes. For those times, risi e bisi comes to the rescue.
Although it looks a bit like one, this is not a pea risotto. It’s a much more set-and-forget affair, with no endless stirring, so the rice’s starch isn’t massaged out. Some purists insist that it should be eaten with a fork; others, with a spoon. I say: you decide. Making it my way, holding some of the stock back, means the rice will be properly cooked and then, right at the end of cooking, you can choose to make it exactly as forkable or spoonable as you want.
Oddly, the star ingredient is neither the risi nor the bisi: it’s the stock. Use the best quality stock you can find or, as I sometimes do, use a good clear chicken consommé instead. As always, frozen peas are the practical option. In the relaxed spirit of this lovely dish, you add them without thawing. Easy peasy.
Risi e bisi
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ teaspoon of olive oil
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
500ml (2 cups) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
125g (½ cup) vialone nano or arborio rice
200g (7 oz) peas
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (¼ cup) Parmesan, finely grated
sea salt flakes
Melt a tablespoon of butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, adding a drop of olive oil to prevent the butter browning. Cook the chopped onion, stirring occasionally, until it becomes translucent and lightly golden.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to the edge of a boil in a small saucepan and keep it hot.
Add the rice and peas to the onion and stir gently to thoroughly coat in buttery goodness. Let it cook like this for a minute or two, letting the peas thaw out and become bright green.
Pour in three-quarters of the stock. Bring it up to a bubble, then lower the heat, covering and cooking at a very gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Check occasionally: if there’s any sense of the rice sticking, your heat is too high.
The rice is done when it still has some bite left to it but without any chalkiness at its centre. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and as much of the remaining stock as necessary to bring it to your desired consistency. Stir in the parsley and 3 tablespoons of Pecorino or Parmesan.
Taste for salt and season appropriately, then spoon into bowls, sprinkling the remaining cheese over to finish.