Risi e Bisi, Italian Rice and Peas

A classic Italian comfort food of rice with peas and chunks of ham.

Risi e Bisi Italian Rice and Peas
Elise Bauer

This is a classic dish from Venice, and it has many variations.

Risi e bisi simply means rice and peas, and the dish is traditionally made with the fresh new peas of spring. If fresh peas are not available, you can easily make it with frozen peas (avoid canned).

Diced prosciutto is important to this dish, although not vital; I’ve seen vegetarian versions of risi e bisi. How much to add? You could go as high as a half pound in this recipe, making the dish more of a main course. But 1/4 pound is a better proportion for a side dish. And it must be diced: Slices will not do.

Risi e Bisi Italian Rice and Peas
Elise Bauer

Can’t find prosciutto? Use any ham. Virginia ham is an excellent substitute. Remember dry cured hams are salty, so the more you add, the saltier the dish will become.

Risi e Bisi, Italian Rice and Peas

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 4 servings

You must use a medium-grain rice here. Ideally, you’d use a variety from Venice called Vialone Nano, but regular Arborio is just fine, and Carnaroli is good, too.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 3 shallots, minced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 pound diced prosciutto or other dry ham

  • 1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice

  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

  • 2 or more cups water

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas

  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Sauté shallots:

    Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the shallots and stir to combine. Let these sauté for 2-3 minutes.

  2. Heat stock and water:

    Meanwhile, heat up the stock and 1 cup of water in a small pot. You want this at a simmer while you make the rice.

  3. Add garlic and prosciutto to shallots:

    Add the garlic and the diced prosciutto to the pot with the shallots, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

  4. Add rice:

    Pour in the rice, stir again and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

  5. Slowly ladle in stock:

    Ladle some of the hot stock into the pot and start stirring. Risi e bisi is cooked like risotto, and is supposed to be pretty soupy, so you need a lot of water and you need to stir it constantly. Let this first ladle of stock cook down before you add the next.

    Keep adding stock, letting it cook down and stirring until you’re done with the simmering stock. It is likely that you may need at least one more cup of water to finish the dish, because all that stirring in an open pot means you evaporate more liquid than you would when you cook rice the normal way, i.e., covered. If you think you are going to need more water, add more to the simmering stock.

  6. When you get to this last cup of water, add the peas:

    Keep stirring until the water has almost cooked away. Taste some rice and test for salt and doneness: Add a little salt and some more hot tap water if the rice is still crunchy – you want the rice to be a little al dente, but not so much you’re gnawing on raw grain.

  7. Add the parsley and the parmesan and mix well:

    Your finished rice should be slightly soupy, so it’s OK to add a tad more water before serving.


Risi e Bisi with Baked Prosciutto Chips - from Sippity Sup

Rice and Peas Salad - from The Nourishing Gourmet

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
279 Calories
11g Fat
30g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 279
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 1226mg 53%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 15g
Vitamin C 20mg 101%
Calcium 104mg 8%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 491mg 10%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.