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Guido Brunetti's Risotto

I have long loved Donna Leon's Venice-set mysteries featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. Leon's descriptions of the city, the Venetians who Brunetti meets in the course of his investigations, and his authentically loving family are all part of the series' charm. Also, there's the food.

In almost every book, I wait anxiously for the moment when Brunetti goes home for one of his wife Paola's excellent meals. I'm not the only one. In 2010, Roberta Pianaro and Leon published Brunetti's Cookbook, which pairs recipes for the most memorable dishes contained in the pages of Brunetti's adventures.

I just started reading Leon's latest, Give unto Others, which I'm loving, and was quickly rewarded by a scene where Brunetti comes home to Risotto Radicchio di Treviso. Mmmmm. Risotto. I love risotto. But Risotto Radicchio di Treviso, with red wine and bitter radicchio, is a decidedly autumnal dish and here at the beginning of April, I wanted something a bit more . . . springy.

Then I remembered a scene in one of the mysteries, Friends in High Places, where Paola is shelling spring peas and tells Brunetti she's going to make risotto with peas, or Risi e Bisi. Perfect! But while it is April here in Vermont, it is still much too cold for local peas. To my delight, I found the recipe for Risi e Bisi in Brunetti's Cookbook and it called for frozen peas. Hurrah! I had a (very good) plan for dinner.

I highly recommend this springy and accessible dish!

Rice with Peas

Risi e Bisi

from Brunetti's Cookbook by Roberta Pianaro and Donna Leon

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

12 oz. frozen peas

a pinch of chopped parsley

2 teaspoons crushed meat stock cube

1 3/4 cups risotto rice

3/4 oz. butter

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan or casserole and fry the onion gently with the salt and 2 tablespoons of water. When the onion is transparent, add the peas and cook over moderate heat for 15 minutes. Then add the parsley and stock cube. Reduce and add the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, and adding four cups of boiling water, one cup at a time. When ready, remove from the heat and add the butter, the cheese, and a good grind of pepper.

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