In Veneto, the ‘primo piatto’ (first course) is often risotto. You’ll find that risottos on the menus will reflect local seasonality and the time of year.
In spring, risotto will be light and fresh. Think of risotto with white asparagus or risi e bisi, one of Veneto’s most traditional risottos.
Risi e bisi, which means rice and peas in the Venetian dialect, was served to the Doge at the April 25 banquet, to celebrate the feast of Saint Mark and the Venetian national day. But what may sound like a simple dish requires attention during preparation. The secret of making a perfect Risi e Bisi is in its consistency, which shouldn’t be too soupy or too dry, but soft and creamy.
Rice entered the Venetian cuisine as early as 1300, initially sold in grain-based spice shops as a medicine, and later as a thickener or filler in soups and, finally, as a risotto component. For Risi e Bisi you’ll want to use the Vialone Nano type of rice. It will swell during cooking and absorb the sauce, resulting in a final dish that’s halfway between risotto and soup, with perfect consistency.
The Doge’s Risi e Bisi
This recipe, which serves four, is the historical recipe of the Doge, held in Venice.
500 gr. of shelled peas
500 gr. Nano Vialone rice; better if it’s Vialone Nano Veronese IGP*
2 fresh white onions
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
50 gr. of butter
5 tablespoons of grated cheese, but we prefer Grana Padano DOP** from Veneto.
Salt and pepper broth as required.
The day before, if possible, prepare a chicken broth with celery, carrots, onion, a clove of garlic, a little salt.
Cut the fresh white onions into thin pieces.
Chop the parsely
Put the 5 tablespoons of olive oil, the shelled peas, the onions, the parsley and half a glass of water in a saucepan.
Cook it for about 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Add the rice and stir for a few minutes before adding the broth. Add the broth a little at a time. Turn the heat off when the rice is al dente.
Stir in the butter, grated Grana Padano cheese, and pepper and salt.
Never stop stirring!
It’s ready when the rice is al dente and the consistency of the risi e bisi is creamy but not too soupy.
Now, suppose you want to add some extra flavor to your Venetian Risi e Bisi. In that case, you may add pancetta and Prosecco to the list of ingredients. You may add the thinly sliced pancetta right after the onions are translucent, before adding the rice. And pour a glass of Prosecco on the rice before you add the broth.
*IGP means “Indicazione Geografica Protetta,” a quality certification for Protected Geographical Indication.
**DOP means “Denominazione di Origine Protetta,” a quality certification for Protected Designation of Origin.
Photo from shutterstock