I love making risotto. I especially love the time it takes to watch over the rice and ensure each ladle of hot stock is soaked into the grains. But it seems I’m in the minority. Many friends and family have told me they avoid making risotto because “it takes too long”. There’s no place I’d rather be than in front of the cooktop, apron and radio on, working away at something that will taste delicious and look great on the table. But I know it’s a modern world and everyone has less time these days.
So here’s an Italian rice dish that can be cooked and on the table in under half an hour. Risi e Bisi translates simply as Rice and Peas and is the perfect example of Italian peasant cooking winning out over complicated and showy dishes. It is not cooked like a risotto in that it should not be stirred but you should end up with a dish thick enough to eat with a fork rather than a spoon.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g risotto rice (Carnaroli is best, else Arborio)
1 litre good chicken or vegetable stock
400g frozen peas
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp chopped flat parsley
Salt and black pepper
25g butter, extra stock, cubes of pancetta or slices of prosciutto (all optional)
1. Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy-based large pan over a medium heat and add the onion and leek. Cook gently for about ten minutes until translucent. Warm the stock in a separate pan.
2. Add the crushed garlic and rice and stir through the onions and leeks for two minutes. Season well and add all the stock to the rice. Bring it all to a simmer and cook slowly for another five minutes. Stir in the peas and bring back up to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for another ten to fifteen minutes / until the rice is cooked to your liking (I prefer it with a bit of bite in the grain).
3. Remove from the heat and add the parmesan and parsley. Stir through and season well. I like to add an extra knob of butter and some cubes of pancetta at this stage but that is optional. You can also add more stock if you’d prefer a more soupy finish.