Risi e Bisi is traditional Italian at its best. So good, and tastes like Spring! Seek out shelled English peas! They are so good and this dish is as beautiful in appearance as it is delicious in taste!
4ozsnow peas shootsor alfalfa sprouts, optional, for garnish
Bring the broth to a low simmer in a medium-sized pot. Keep warm during the entire cooking process.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once shimmering, add the onion and pancetta and cook until the onion is translucent and pancetta is slightly crisp.
Add 1 cup of the hot broth. Use a wooden spoon to stir the rice around in the broth. Continue this process until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat in ½ to 1 cup broth increments. Continue until rice and almost completely soft to the bite, and you've used 6 (of the 7) cups of the broth. This process should take 22 to 25 minutes.
Stir in the peas, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
Add the last cup of broth and cook until the rice is very tender to the bite, about 2 more minutes.
Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and butter. Stir until butter has melted. If too thick, add a little more broth. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Serve at once, garnished with snow pea shoots, if using.
Be sure to heat your broth before starting. To make the dish vegetarian, omit the pancetta and use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth. Shelled English peas can often be found packaged in the produce section of most well-stocked supermarkets, or at produce markets. Frozen sweet petite peas can be substituted in a pinch. Keep an extra cup or two of the broth handy. You may need to add more if not serving immediately, or if the rice mixture feels too thick.Rise e bisi is best served right from the stove, but can easily be reheated over medium heat with another cup of broth (or water) stirred in. Simmer over low heat until heated through.Leftovers can keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen for up 2 months, but the texture will be somewhat compromised when thawed and reheated.