3 quarts, serves 8
Everyone makes this classic soup a little differently, according to preference. I like my risi e bisi rather brothy while others make theirs quite dense. This is controlled by the intensity of the boil, using an open or covered pot, and cooking time, all of which determine the rate of evaporation. (I cook my soup covered, at a slow boil.)
Either long- or short-grain rice can be used here. Traditionally, the soup was made with short grain carnaroli or arborio rice, and I still think it produces the most authentic flavor and texture. Short-grain rice cooks faster, but if you need to cook the soup longer or reheat it, the rice tends to dissolve. Long-grain rice, on the other hand, stays more intact in a long-cooking or reheated soup.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for serving
- 1/4 pound bacon (about 4 thick-cut strips), cut crosswise in 1/3-inch pieces
- 2 cups leeks, diced in 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 ounces)
- 3 cups peas or edamame, fresh, shucked (or 1 pound frozen)
- 3 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt or to taste
- 3/4 to 1 cup long-grain rice
- 4 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- freshly grated Grana Padano for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Pour the olive oil in the heavy pot and set over medium heat. Stir in the bacon pieces and cook for several minutes to render the fat. When the bacon starts to crisp, stir in the leeks (and fresh peas, if using). Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are wilted and the bacon is caramelized, about 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile heat 3 quarts of water to a simmer. Pour into the pot with the onions and bacon, add the tablespoon of salt, and stir well. Rapidly bring to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain active bubbling. Cook for an hour, covered, to build flavor in the soup base.
3. If using frozen peas, add now, return the soup to a bubbling simmer, and cook for 20 minutes before adding the rice. (If fresh peas are already cooking in the pot, stir in the rice after the hour or so of cooking.) Use 3/4 cup rice for a looser soup or a full cup of rice for a denser one and add to the soup. Return the soup to an active simmer, taste, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon or more of salt—remember that more rice needs more seasoning.
4. Cook the rice for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the grains are cooked through but not mushy. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and grated cheese; season the soup with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately, passing more cheese and olive oil at the table.
Measure out the ingredients; clean and wash the leeks; pick the parsley leaves for chopping; shuck the peas or edamame if fresh; and add grated cheese.