A few years ago I was reading Friends in High Places, a Guido Brunetti mystery by Donna Leon, and I came across these lines...
She was in the kitchen when he came in, seated at the table, shelling peas.
"Risi e bisi," he said by way of greeting when he saw the peas, the irises held out in front of him.
Smiling at the sight of the flowers, she said, "It's the best thing to do with peas, isn't it, make risotto?" and raised her cheek to receive his kiss.
If Guido and Paola Brunetti weren't already one of my all-time favorite fictional couples, this scene would have sealed it. I immediately looked up Risi e Bisi and found the recipe below and a bit of info on the dish.
I try to make it every spring because I love Venice (maybe really going there this October), I love peas, I love making soup, and I love being connected to a cultural tradition.
This dish is considered by the Italians as a soup, but it is even thicker than most Italian thick soups. It is a specialty of
Risi e bisi (Rice and Peas)
3 cups shelled green peas3 T butter
2 1/2 T olive oil
2/3 cups diced lean bacon
1 green onion, sliced
10 cups chicken stock
1 2/3 cup rice
salt to taste
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 sprigs parsley
Heat the butter and oil together in a large pan, and gently saute the bacon and onion. When the bacon is brown, add the peas and moisten with a few tablespoons of the stock. Cook gently for 15 minutes. Add the rest of the stock, which must be hot, and bring it to the boil. Pour in the rice, stir well, lower the heat and cook gently for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and still fairly moist. Add salt if necessary, and sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese and parsley.
Serves 4 to 6.