One of the most celebrated Venetian specialties, Risi e Bisi (Venetian dialect for "rice and peas") was the traditional dish served to the Doges on the day of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice. Risi e Bisi, a minestra or thick soup, is the inspiration for this risotto of elegant simplicity: a basic risotto brimming with tender sweet young peas. We like to sauté the peas gently in a bit of butter and add them in at the very end. This ensures that they keep their bright green color and firm texture.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  1 cup shelled fresh peas or defrosted frozen peas, not cooked
  1/4 cup light cream
  1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

5 cups basic broth, approximately
  1/2 cup dry white wine or broth

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  1tablespoon oil
  1/3 cup finely minced onion
  1 celery rib, finely minced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  1. CONDIMENTI: Heat the butter in a small skillet over moderate heat. When it begins to foam, add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and set aside.
  2. BRODO: Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.
  3. SOFFRITTO: Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole over moderate heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.
  4. RISO: Add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, reserving about 1/4 cup to add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  5. After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the reserved broth and the condimenti—peas, cream, and Parmesan—and stir vigorously to combine with the rice. Serve immediately.

Serves 4


  1. Add 1 tablespoon diced prosciutto to the soffritto.
  2. To intensify the pea flavor, cook the peas in the broth while you are preparing the risotto, for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain the peas, purée them in a food processor or blender, and add them to the risotto in step 5.