I do sound like a broken record but the produce here in Alba is spectacular and I swear that these peas are so fresh that would have still been on the vine this morning.
The best dish I could think of to show off these peas is one that hails from my father's region of Veneto and it's the classic Risi e Bisi. In this recipe you use both the peas and the pods - the pods are boiled until soft, blended and then strained and it is this essence of pea that is used as a stock in which the rice is cooked. These ultra fresh pods produced a stock so good it was better than most pea soups and you could have happily drunk it on its own.
[Serves at least 4]
2 small white onions, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
100 grams pancetta, diced
250 grams risotto rice - I used Acquerello
Pea stock (see instructions below)
freshly ground salt and white pepper, to taste
Make the pea stock:
Remove the peas from the pods and set to one side.
Wash the pods, discarding any that are bruised and place in a large pot. Cover well with water and simmer until soft and falling apart. Use a stick blender to process until pulpy. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.
Return this stock to a clean pot and bring to a simmer. It's now ready to be used.
Make the risi e bisi:
Put a large knob of butter in a pan and place over a medium heat. When the butter has melted add in the onions, celery and pancetta. Lower the heat and let this slowly soften but not colour for about 10 minutes. Increase the heat slightly, then sprinkle over the rice - stir this well as you want the grains to be well coated with the vegetable juices. Cook this for a couple of minutes before adding a ladle of simmering pea stock - the first ladle needs to sizzle as it hits the pan. Stir and as soon as it has been absorbed, add the next ladle. Continue this process until the rice has softened - this should take about 15 to 20 minutes. I like my peas more on the crunchy side so I add them to the pan at around the 15 minute mark - if you like them softer than add after 5 minutes.
When the rice has reached the right consistency, add in a large handful of grated parmesan, a small knob of butter and another ladle of stock. Stir well, taste and adjust for any seasoning at this stage. Remove from the heat and let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving.
Serve topped with a little extra grated parmesan.