Weeknight Cooking

Risi e Bisi (Italian Rice and Peas) + Asparagus with Shallots and Chiles

April 27, 2014

We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there. 

Today: We just can't wait for spring anymore, so we're doubling up on two spring staples -- asparagus and peas -- for tonight's dinner.


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Spring is in the air and we're so excited that we're daydreaming of garlic scapes, fava beans, and fiddleheads. We just can't wait any longer, so we're doubling up on spring staples for tonight's dinner: asparagus and peas.

But even though asparagus is cropping up at our local markets, fresh peas are still far on the horizon. That's why tonight's menu is a compromise of fresh asaparagus with frozen peas. Because even though we can't have peas just yet, the asparagus will carry us through -- and even frozen peas taste wonderful when they're cooked with enough Parmesan cheese.

The Menu 

Take advantage of our handy grocery list and game plan, or click the recipe photos or titles to see (and save and print) the full recipes.

Aristotelian Rice and Peas (Risi e Bisi) by Nicholas 

Substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock to make this a vegetarian dish.

Asparagus with Shallots, Chiles, and Lemon by Amanda Hesser 

The List

Serves 4

4 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup Arborio rice
One 14-ounce bag frozen peas (or about 3 cups of fresh peas) 
1 pound aspagarus
1 small shallot
1 dried red chile
1 lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan 

We assume you have butter, half an onion, olive oil, and salt on hand. If not, add those to the list, too.

The Plan

1. In a soup pot or dutch oven, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Chop two tablespoons of onion, add it to the pan, and sauté until it’s lightly golden. In a separate pot, heat the stock until it reaches a simmer.

2. Once the onion is ready, add 3 cups of the stock, the rice, the bag of frozen peas, and a good pinch of salt. Cover your pot and cook at a low boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

3. After 10 minutes or so, trim the asparagus. Then, thinly slice the shallot, combine it with a large pinch of salt, rub everything together with your fingers, and set aside. 

4. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple generous glugs of olive oil and then the asparagus spears. Season with salt and sauté until just cooked but still crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Crush the dried chile into tiny bits, then mix it with the shallot and sprinkle the mixture across the asparagus. Top with flaky sea salt and serve with the lemon wedges.

6. Check the rice -- it's ready when it's just tender. If the soup is too thick (it should not be like porridge), thin it with the remaining stock. Before serving, add the grated Parmesan and taste for salt. Eat alongside the asparagus and enjoy spring on a plate. 

Photos by James Ransom and Sarah Shatz

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