Risi e Bisi (Italian Rice & Peas) is a simple, humble and comforting one-pot recipe which originates from Venice. It's got a great flavor base from plenty of sweet leeks and green peas and it's creamy and rich with none of the fussiness of a risotto. In fact it's really easy to make and very family friendly.
What is Risi e Bisi? Let's just cut right to it. It might sound intimidating but it literally translates as "rice and peas".
Like carbonara, it's a traditional Italian dish which dates back to the days of the Republic of Venice and is traditionally served on April 25 for the Feast of St. Mark as a celebration of spring.
Risi e Bisi is almost like a cross between risotto and thick soup, but what's really good about it is that there is none of the fussiness of risotto. It's simple to make with no skill or patience required, which makes it just perfect for a simple midweek dinner.
It’s super easy, pretty hands off and it’s also really, really, really good. It’s the kind of good where I just want to keep eating bowl after bowl forever and ever. It's very kid friendly too so will keep the whole family happy at dinner time. Also the simmering smells in your house while it's doing its thing aren't a bad thing. At all.
What kind of rice do you use in Risi e Bisi?
The type of rice you use for this Italian rice and peas recipe is really important. It has to be risotto rice. Carnaroli is the best one to use and shouldn't be too difficult to find. It is starchier than other risotto rices and has a firmer texture and an ability to hold its shape more easily. But if you can't get hold of it, Arborio rice or Vialone Nano will do really well too. Most good grocery stores will have at least one of those varieties.
You absolutely cannot use regular long grain rice or brown rice because you just won't get the right starchy, creamy texture.
Can you use frozen peas in Risi e Bisi?
Yes you can use frozen peas, in fact that's just what we are doing here, just like we do with my vegan pea soup. Traditionally Risi e Bisi is made with freshly picked peas, but we are switching those out to make it all together more accessible and convenient and budget friendly.
And of course we are switching out the butter and parmesan for vegan butter and optional vegan parmesan. Optional because it's still great without the cheese.
How to make Risi e Bisi
(For detailed measurements and instructions, see the printable recipe card).
Ok let's make Risi e Bisi! Here's how:
Step 1: Sauté the leeks, onion and garlic.
Step 2: Add the rice and let it cook for a few minutes.
Step 3: Add the peas, straight from the freezer!
Step 4: Then the stock and let it simmer itself to perfection. Only the occasional stir is required.
Step 5: Finish it off with a big dollop of vegan butter and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
- Use the correct rice. It must be risotto rice. I can't stress enough how important this is.
- Do not rinse the rice before using it. It's essential to keep all the starch on the rice.
- Do not use canned peas.
- Don't skip the leeks or swap them for more onion. They impart so much flavour and this recipe just wouldn't be the same without them.
- Don't overcook it. When it looks like the picture just above, thick but still quite liquidy, and when you taste a grain of rice and it is tender, it's ready. By the time you serve it up and start eating, it will thicken a little more again.
While traditionally just peas are added to Risi e Bisi, there are a few other additions that would work well. Here are some ideas:
- Asparagus spears cut into bite sized pieces and added in the last 5 minutes of cooking time would be lovely.
- Frozen edamame beans or baby broad beans as well as or instead of the peas.
- Button mushrooms as well as or in place of the peas.
- Vegan bacon pieces - add them with the onion at the beginning to get some color before adding everything else.
- Add a few handfuls of spinach right at the end and let it wilt just before you add the vegan butter and pepper.
- Add a little lemon zest.
- Add a garnish of chopped fresh mint.
How to serve Italian Rice and Peas
The main idea is that you fill a very huge bowl with this risotto-ey soupiness and enjoy every mouthful!
A big dollop of vegan butter on the top of each individual bowl is amazing. It melts and seeps into the rice making it taste even more decadent. Vegan parmesan cheese and a generous scattering of fresh parsley and freshly ground black pepper are also highly recommended. As is a good bottle of Italian red wine for drinking ;O)
On the side if you are extra hungry, some of my No Knead Focaccia and a crisp salad like my Sugar Snap Pea Salad would be great. I have yet to try it myself, but I am sure that King Oyster Mushroom "scallops" nestled on the top would be pretty amazing!
How to prep ahead of time
Risi e Bisi is best cooked and eaten right away. However, if you do want to make it ahead you can follow the recipe as it is but leave the peas out completely. Then cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Add the frozen peas and stir them through right before you reheat it.
Storage, freezing & reheating tips
- Storage - Risi e Bisi leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezing - Risi e Bisi freezes well for up to 3 months. Cook it and allow it to cool then transfer to one or more freezer safe container before putting into the freezer. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
- To reheat - Leftovers can be warmed gently in a pan on the stove top or can be microwaved at 30 to 60 second intervals until piping hot. Have a little extra stock on hand to loosen it up with because it will likely thicken up a lot. Simply add a drop or two as its warming and stir it in well until you get the consistency you want.
- If you prepped the Risi e Bisi ahead of time as per my instructions above - Remove it from the fridge, put it in a pan and add the frozen peas that you omitted earlier. Give it a stir to combine, then reheat gently until piping hot, stirring frequently. Add a little more stock to thin as necessary.
If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment and rating below! And be sure to join my mailing list for more deliciousness!
Risi e BisiAuthor:
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium medium leeks , cleaned and shredded
- 1 medium onion , peeled and diced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 cup / 197 g risotto rice , such as Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone Nano
- 2 cups / 270 g frozen peas
- 6 cups / 1440 mls vegetable stock
- ½ teaspoon salt , plus more to taste
- ¼ cup / 60 g / 4 tbsp Vegan Butter
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper , plus more to taste
- OPTIONAL fresh parsley to top , chopped
- OPTIONAL Vegan Parmesan to top
- In a large skillet, over a medium-high heat, sauté the leeks and onions in the olive oil for about 5 mins, until they become translucent.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the minced garlic, and continue to cook for another two to three minutes.
- Stir in the rice. Let it cook for 2 mins, stirring frequently, then add the peas.
- Add the stock and salt, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is cooked, swollen and tender (spoon a piece out to try it) and most of the stock has been absorbed but it's still quite runny like a very thick soup. It will continue to thicken a bit as it cools while you serve it up. (See the progress shots in the post above for how it should look when it's ready).
- Remove from the heat, add the vegan butter and black pepper and give it a really good stir to incorporate. Taste a little bit to check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Serve immediately, and top each serving with an optional dollop of butter, parsley and vegan parmesan cheese if desired.
The recipe was kindly written as a guest post by Nico from the blog Yumsome on April 8th 2017. I have since adapted the recipe in line with how I make it myself and the post and photos have also been updated.
Alexandra C Colacito says
I'm eating this right now and cannot wait to review it. So freaking delicious. First time making arborio rice and adding the liquid all at once instead of in increments like other risottos. I substituted chopped asparagus for the peas and followed the directions exactly (just halved the butter). I'm going to make this ALL THE TIME. I also followed your suggestion to make the sugar snap pea salad on the side. It's perfect as well (especially after marinating for an hour). I ran out of steam and didn't make the focaccia bread, but next time!
Melanie McDonald says
Love that! So pleased you enjoyed it. I must admit that this is definitely one of my own most made recipes. I bet it's great with asparagus!
Love this recipe. We didn't have any Peas so used mixed frozen Vegetables. Also didn't add cheese or butter but it was so creamy. This will now be a firm favourite in our house.