Risi e Bisi (Rice and Peas)

Adapted slightly from Venice of Food by Sally Spector
Serves 4-6

2 pounds of fresh English peas
1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of sugar
10 ounces of Arborio short grain rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Shell the peas. Rinse the pods and place in a large saucepan with 2 1/2 quarts salted water. Simmer the pods slowly over a low heat, half-covered for 1 hour. Drain the pods, using a strainer over a large bowl, pressing all the liquid out of the pods. Reserve the liquid and discard the pods.

Place the minced onion and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan, and cook the onion on low, until light golden brown. Add the shelled peas, a pinch of sugar, and about 1/4 cup of the reserved pea broth. Cook the peas over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peas soften and the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is dry.

Add the rice and raise the heat, mixing the rice with the other ingredients. Pour in a ladle of the pea broth (it must be very hot) and stir constantly, do not allow the rice to stick to the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has evaporated: repeat, adding ladles of broth and after about 18-20 minutes the rice should be done. If the rice still has a bite, continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, adding additional broth as needed. (You will not need to use all the broth; an additional ladle of broth is required to complete the dish.)

When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add a final ladle of broth, 2 1/2 tablespoons butter and the fresh minced parsley, but do not mix them in. Cover the pan and leave on the burner (off) for 2- 3 minutes, then gently stir together the ingredients and serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Note: You may choose to adjust the liquid consistency of the rise e bisi by adding additional broth.