Creamy pea risotto with bacon and mint is an excellent springtime Italian dish! Tender arborio rice is flavored with peas, fresh mint, and crispy bacon.
Poor little green peas, always getting a bad reputation in the highly desired vegetable category, or does that even exist? Haha. Maybe it’s the childhood memories of mushy overcooked canned peas for me, but I decided to give it another try.
Fresh peas are available during the spring or better yet, a frozen bag also works too. A delicious way to showcase these delicate and slightly sweet green pearls is to add them to some creamy risotto, sounds like a good idea to me!
It’s not just about sprinkling a few peas here and there into the risotto. Nope, I’ve pureed 1 cup of peas with fresh mint to add to this risotto base and saved the rest for stirring in. I was able to find some frozen organic peas at my local grocery store, and they were fantastic.
I add the mint pea puree and whole peas at the very end of cooking until just hot, so the peas don’t get overcooked, and the color stays nice and bright green.
When you make risotto I have three rules: 1) Don’t be in a hurry, 2) Have a glass of nice white wine in hand as you tend to the rice (or your other favorite beverage), 3) Play some rustic Italian music and sing. Yep, all of these rules will enhance your risotto experience!
The most important rule is not to be rushed because each grain of Italian arborio rice needs time to absorb a large amount of chicken stock. This gives you that “al dente” and creamy texture that is to die for, seriously. If you jack up the heat or add all of the liquid at once, you will be left with mushy and watery rice, no grazie!
There it is again, yummy crispy bacon! If you have been checking out my recipes for a while, you will know that my family LOVES bacon. In this dish, it brings together the fresh peas, mint, and lemon, with the smoky bacon and creamy rice, topped with Parmesan cheese, bada bing, bada boom!
If you are looking for more Italian inspired recipes, try my herb stuffed mushrooms with sausage, easy gnocchi skillet with chicken sausage, chicken ragu pasta with mushrooms or cheesy chicken parmesan.
What rice do I use for Risotto and how do I make it creamy?
Arborio rice is the best! It’s a short-grain Italian rice that is high in starch content which adds the creaminess to your risotto. Stir the rice constantly as you gradually add the liquid to keep the grains separate. The heat, time, and stirring motion will help the excess starch on the rice absorb the liquid. Over time the starches swell, causing the grains to soften but not stick together. The rice should still be firm and “al dente”; taste the rice as you go so you know the perfect endpoint. The rice should be tender, not hard (grainy and uncooked), and the rice should be like a nice pudding consistency, not an unmovable lump of rice.
Creamy Pea Risotto with Bacon
- 7 cups chicken stock, simmering
- 6 ounces bacon, diced
- 2 cups green peas, frozen, thawed
- 6 large mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, more as needed
- In a large pot, bring chicken stock to a simmer. Keep at a simmer until ready to make the risotto.
- In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
- In a food processor or blender, puree half of the peas and 6 mint leaves with 1 cup of water, reserve.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is evenly coated with the oil. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, 3 minutes.
- Add the simmering chicken stop about ½ cup at a time to the rice, stirring frequently. Wait until each portion of cooking liquid is almost fully absorbed before adding the next. Keep gradually adding the stock until the rice cooked and tender, and suspended in a creamy sauce, about 25 to 35 minutes.
- Add the mint pea puree, the remaining peas and the bacon and cook, stirring, until hot.
- Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the butter, reserved bacon fat, cheese, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with mint and cheese and serve.