The Feast of San Marco, April 25th
Risi e Bisi
Risi e Bisi (rice with fresh peas) is a very old Venetian dish, dating from the Renaissance when green peas where as expensive and luxurious as truffles. It was served to the Doge annually on April 25th for La Festa di San Marco, in honor of St. Mark, the Patron Saint of Venice, Italy. This beautiful and delicate spring dish is still made every April 25th to celebrate the city’s saint.
Dining with the Saints is a monthly feature written by Erica De Mane, author of several books and columns on Italian cooking as well as a blog called Skinny Guinea at http://www.ericademane.com
1 1/2 lbs. fresh peas in their pods
2 quarts light chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup diced pancetta
2 shallots, cut into small dice
2 cups carnaroli or vialone nano rice
A pinch of ground cinnamon
A slightly bigger pinch of ground nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus a little more for serving.
A handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves lightly chopped
Shell the peas and reserve the pods. Put the pods in a saucepot. Pour in the chicken broth and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and let this simmer, uncovered, for about ½ hour. Strain and keep warm.
Choose a wide, shallow pan. Get it hot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the butter. Add the pancetta and sauté until it crisps. Add the shallots and sauté until they’re softened. Add the rice and the peas, seasoning with salt, black pepper, the cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Sauté the rice and peas for about a minute, coating everything well with oil. Start adding the pea broth, a ladleful at a time while you stir the rice. Continue stirring and adding broth as it evaporates until the rice and peas are both tender, about 16 to 17 minutes. Pull the rice from the heat and add the Parmigiano, the parsley, and enough additional broth (or warm water, if you’ve run out) to achieve a loose consistency (this dish is served a little looser than a traditional risotto). Check the seasoning, adding more salt or freshly ground black pepper if needed. Serve right away with additional grated Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle over the top.