Zoccali, executive chef and proprietor of Sydney Italian restaurants The Restaurant Pendolino and La Rosa The Strand, has had a long-running obsession with Venice.
His book Venetian Republic, published last month, features a diverse collection of recipes and stories from four key regions of the republic – Venice and the lagoon islands, the surrounding Veneto, the Croatian coast and the Greek Islands – from Croatian roast lamb shoulder with olive oil potatoes to zabaglione from Corfu.
Sweet Pea Risotto
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
This is one of Venice’s most iconic dishes. But, as with pašticada and squid ink risotto, rizi bizi or sweet pea risotto is also ubiquitous in Croatia. This recipe includes a unique Dalmatian component: crisp smoked pancetta laid over the top, delivering a beautiful salty, smoky crunch.
160g smoked pancetta
80 ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 white onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
350g (1 2/3 cups) risotto rice
250 ml (1 cup) quality dry white wine
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
300g sweet peas, half left whole, half puréed to a smooth paste
30g (½ cup) chopped parsley
2 tablespoons butter
50g (½ cup) grated parmigiano reggiano, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).
Finely dice half the pancetta and cut the remainder into thin ribbons. Place the ribbon slices on a baking tray and cook in the oven until crisp.
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and diced pancetta and cook over low heat until the onion is translucent.
Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the wine and cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another pan, then reduce the heat and keep at a simmer.
Slowly add the hot stock to the rice, one ladle at a time, stirring continuously as the rice absorbs the stock. Cook for about 12 minutes, then stir in the peas, pea purée and parsley.
Cook for a further 3 minutes, then add the butter and parmigiano reggiano and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and leave for 3 minutes before serving, garnished with crisp pancetta slices, a little extra parmigiano reggiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Images and Text from Venetian Republic by Nino Zoccali. Food photography by Alan Benson. Murdoch Books, RRP $49.99.
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