Risi e Bisi with pea shoot pesto


200g peas in the pod (or 80g podded peas, fresh or frozen)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced (trimmings saved)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp black peppercorns
A few parsley stalks (optional)
10g butter
2 tsp olive or canola oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
100g arborio rice
25g Parmesan, Berkswell or hard goat’s cheese, finely grated

For the pesto
70g pine nuts
About 60g pea shoots
1⁄2 small garlic clove, chopped
Juice of 1⁄2 small lemon
120–150ml extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
25g Parmesan, Berkswell or hard goat’s cheese, finely grated
Sea salt and black pepper
50g mild, soft goat’s or ewe’s cheese, to finish
Extra virgin olive or canola oil


1. Start with the pesto: toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a medium-low heat until lightly coloured. Transfer to a plate and leave to cool completely.

2. Put the pea shoots and garlic into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or roughly chop, then pound with a pestle and mortar). Add the pine nuts, lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Process briefly then, with the motor running (or stirring, if using a pestle and mortar), slowly pour in the extra virgin oil until the pesto is the texture you like – you may not need all of it. Stir in the cheese (and a trickle more oil if needed), then taste and add a little more salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.

3. Pod the peas and set them aside. Roughly chop the pods and put them in a pan with the carrot, spring onion trimmings, bay, peppercorns and parsley stalks, if using. Pour on 750ml water, bring to a simmer and cook for 25–30 minutes. Strain, return to the pan and keep hot over a very low heat.

4. Heat a medium pan over a medium heat and add the butter and oil. When bubbling, add the spring onions and cook, stirring regularly, for 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and cook for a further minute.

5. Now add one-third of the hot pea stock and stir well. Bring back to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock is absorbed. Add another third and repeat, stirring regularly. Add the remaining stock along with the peas, and cook for 3–4 minutes or until the rice and peas are just tender, and the risotto has a loose consistency, almost like a soup. Take off the heat and stir in the grated cheese and some salt and pepper.

6. Spoon the risotto into warm bowls and top with crumbled cheese and a generous spoonful of pesto. Finish with a few more fresh pea shoots if you have them.

This recipe is an extract from River Cottage A to Z by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury Publishing, RRP $85). Image © Simon Wheeler.


  • You can make this dish using about 600mL of good light vegetable stock instead, and any good pesto - or just a final swirl of good oil.
  • You can use broad beans in this recipe: small fresh ones can be added straight to the risotto, though they may need a little more cooking than peas; older ones should be cooked and skinned first.