Risi e Bisi

Rice and Peas

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Preparation info

  • 6–8

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

Alastair Little's Italian Kitchen

By Alastair Little

Published 1996

  • About

The Venetian dialect for rice and peas. Virtually every cuisine has a rice and peas dish: jambalaya in New Orleans, gohan in Japan, and Chinese fried rice with peas. This is not a risotto, but a pea and ham soup thickened to solidity by the rice. To be candid, the end result is not that different.


  • 1.5 kg peas in pod
  • 500 g carnaroli rice (for strict authenticity, but arborio will do)
  • 1.5 litres Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 60 g butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and very finely diced
  • 100 g pancetta, cut into small lardons
  • 60 g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper


Pod the peas. Do not discard the pods, but instead string and chop them into small pieces, then boil for 20 minutes in the broth. Sieve, and discard the pods, but admire the strong pea flavour of the liquid.

Take a heavy casserole or pan and melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the peas and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Add all the broth and simmer for 10 minutes after returning to the boil.

Tip in the rice, stir, cover and continue simmering for 20 minutes. At this point the rice should be al dente, cooked but not soft, slightly resistant to the bite. Taste and wait for a minute or two; if you detect a chalky residue in your mouth, it’s still underdone.

The risi e bisi at this point is still quite liquid. Add the Parmesan and parsley, stir, cover and leave to rest for 4 minutes. During this time the dish will solidify slightly. Check seasoning. Serve warm.

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