RISI E BISI (Venetian rice and pea soup, for six first course servings)
2-1/2 pounds fresh baby peas (in the pod) or, if fresh peas are not available (and usually they’re not), use two 10-ounce packages frozen baby peas
¼ pound pancetta or prosciutto, finely chopped
1 medium sized onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter (if you’re using pancetta), or 4 tablespoons if you’re using prosciutto (which renders less fat), plus 3 tablespoons for finishing the soup (optional)
1 cup short grain Italian rice, such as Vialone Nano, Romeo, Ribe-Rigo, Arborio or Carnaroli (do not rinse)
7 cups chicken broth (homemade preferred)
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (chopped at the last minute)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1.Shuck the peas if they’re fresh, thaw them if they’re frozen.
2. Heat the pancetta and onion in butter over low to medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot, stirring every couple of minutes, for about 10 minutes until they release their aroma. Don’t allow the pancetta or onion to brown.
3. Add the rice and stir it over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Pour over the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, covered, and bite into a grain of rice – it should be almost, but not completely, done. Add the peas and simmer for 1 or 2 minutes more. Stir in the parsley and optional butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in hot soup plates. Pass the cheese at the table.
NOTE: You can make this soup with any vegetable (or combination of vegetables) you like. Just keep in mind the cooking times for the vegetables and add them to the rice broth mixture accordingly. Diced or sliced root vegetables such as carrots or turnips should be added at the beginning, even sweated with the pancetta, while delicate green vegetables such as fresh fava beans, sections of French string beans or spinach should be added almost at the end. A handful of dried porcini, soaked first in a little water and chopped, works wonders stirred in about halfway through the cooking. Freshy grated white truffles (maybe use artichokes or cardoons as the vegetables, since they’re in season at the same time) shaved over each serving at the table are magnificent.
from James Peterson, Splendid Soups