Creamy Pea Risotto with Bacon

4.91 from 10 votes
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Enjoy spring flavors with our creamy pea risotto, a delightful Italian classic! This dish pairs tender Arborio rice with the fresh zest of peas and mint, topped off with the savory crunch of crispy bacon.

Try my other recipes for mushroom risotto and butternut squash risotto to switch up the flavors.

Creamy pea risotto with bacon and mint served in a white bowl.

This pea risotto recipe is an excellent way to infuse spring flavors into a classic Italian dish. When sweet fresh peas are available at the market, grab a bag. However, frozen peas allow you to enjoy this meal year-round.

To ensure that the tender Arborio rice is suspended in a creamy sauce, I use the technique for making risotto that I learned in culinary school. For a twist on the classic, I made a minty pea puree with smokey bits of bacon stirred into the rice. The hint of sweet and savory flavor perfectly complements the risotto.

Recipe ingredients

  • Rice: I recommend Italian arborio rice. This short-grain type of rice is very starchy and creates a luxurious creamy sauce with a pudding-like consistency.
  • Bacon: I use regular-cut bacon, trimmed into 1/2-inch slices for a light and crispy texture.
  • Peas: You can use fresh or frozen green peas. They add a starchy element for a creamier texture. A portion will be pureed, and some will be left whole for contrast.
  • Aromatics: Chopped yellow onions and minced garlic build the savory flavor base.
  • Stock: Chicken stock complements the bacon and infuses more flavor into the rice grains.
  • Wine: Use a dry white wine that you would enjoy drinking with the dish, like Pinot Grigio.
  • Fat: Extra virgin olive oil adds fruitiness, while butter is added at the end for extra richness.
  • Cheese: Freshly grated parmesan cheese has a salty and nutty taste. As it melts, it helps suspend the rice in the sauce.
  • Seasoning: Salt and pepper enhance the savory taste of the rice.
  • Citrus: Lemon zest and lemon juice add a tart flavor to balance the rich bacon.
  • Herbs: Use fresh spearmint leaves for a sweet, citrusy flavor and aroma.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Bowl of risotto with peas and pieces of bacon.

Warm the stock

Step 1: Warm the chicken stock in a separate pot. It should be 120 to 130ºF to keep the risotto hot when adding. This speeds up the cooking process without turning the grains mushy with a liquid that’s too hot.

Cook the bacon

Step 2: Slice the bacon strips into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Add them to a cold pan, then cook over medium heat to prevent grease splatter. This process only takes about 5 minutes to get them crispy. Drain the bacon on a paper towel, but reserve 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat in the pan. It’s going to make the rice very flavorful.

Toast the rice

Step 3: Saute the onions and garlic in the bacon grease with olive oil. This mellows the raw sulfurous notes, making them sweeter and earthier. To build more flavor into the risotto, toast the rice grains in the hot fat until a golden hue on the surface forms. This yields a nutty taste and keeps the grains separate when stirring.

Reduce the wine

Step 4: After toasting the rice, browned bits will be on the bottom of the pan. Add the white wine, continuously stirring to incorporate. Whisk until the wine is reduced and evaporated.

Cook the rice

Step 5: The most important rule when making risotto is not to rush the process. Each grain of Italian arborio rice needs time to absorb a large amount of chicken stock. I only incorporate ½ cup of stock at a time to give that “al dente” texture. The cooking process takes about 30 minutes.

If you crank up the heat or add all the liquid at once, you will be left with mushy, watery rice. To make the experience more fun, I always pour a glass of wine (the bottle is already open!) and turn on some Italian music.

Puree the peas

Step 6: It’s not just about sprinkling a few peas here and there into the risotto. Grab a blender and puree 1 cup of peas with fresh mint and water until smooth. This mixture is now ready to be incorporated into the dish. The bright green adds a festive spring color to the risotto.

Cook the peas

Step 7: Add the mint pea puree and some whole peas at the end of cooking. This prevents the peas from getting overcooked and mushy. Plus, the color stays nice and bright green.

Add the seasonings

Step 8: Stir in the bacon, parmesan, lemon, salt, and pepper to finish the dish. Always taste and season as needed.

Garnish and serve

Step 9: Transfer the pea risotto to warm serving bowls. Garnish with the reserved bacon, parmesan cheese, and fresh mint leaves.

spoon scooping into a risotto

Flavor variations

Now that you know how to make pea risotto try these delicious ways to customize the next batch:

  • Pork: If you like heartier bites of meat, use thick-cut bacon. Instead of smoky bacon, try adding pancetta.
  • Wine: A dry white wine works well, like chardonnay, Sauvignon blanch, or Pinot Grigio.
  • Stock: Instead of chicken stock, use vegetable stock or broth.
  • Cheese: Instead of parmesan, try Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serving suggestions

Frequently asked questions

Can I use fresh or frozen peas?

If using fresh peas, cook the risotto a few minutes longer. Frozen peas should be defrosted before pureeing and cooking. They are steamed and only require a brief warming in the risotto before serving.

What wine goes with pea risotto?

A buttery and oaky glass of chardonnay pairs well for a rich combination. For a lighter pairing, a crisp glass of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or sparkling prosecco. Select the same wine added to the risotto to enjoy as you cook.

What makes risotto different than rice?

Risotto is an Italian rice dish made with short-grain arborio rice. The liquid is gradually added and constantly stirred. This creates a rice porridge consistency. This is different from making a pot of steamed rice using the absorption method, where you do not stir the rice.

close up of mint and bacon on top of a risotto

Creating a creamy risotto

Arborio rice must be used because of its high starch content, which adds creaminess to the risotto. The trick is to add the liquid gradually and to constantly stir to keep the grains separate and encourage releasing of the starches to thicken the stock. The rice should be al dente and tender; taste as you go. The risotto should have a pudding consistency, not be an unmovable lump.

Creamy Pea Risotto with Bacon

Creamy pea and bacon risotto with mint is an excellent springtime Italian dish! Tender arborio rice is flavored with peas, fresh mint and crispy bacon.
4.91 from 10 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Italian

Ingredients 
 

  • 7 cups chicken stock, or broth
  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into ½" strips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups green peas, thawed if frozen
  • 6 large mint leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

  • Warm the Stock – In a large pot, add the chicken stock. Warm over medium-low heat until it reaches 120 to 130ºF (49 to 54ºC) on a thermometer, about 10 minutes.
  • Cook the Bacon – Add the sliced bacon to a large skillet or Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat until crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess grease. Turn off the heat and reserve 1 tablespoon of the grease in the pan. Reserve some bacon pieces to use for garnish.
  • Toast the Rice – In the pan used to cook the bacon, add the olive oil. Turn the heat to medium, then add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the rice, and stir until the grains are coated with the oil and become lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
  • Reduce the Wine – Add the wine to the pan, and stir until the liquid has evaporated, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Cook the Rice – Add the warm stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Add more stock once most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue to add the stock in ½ cup additions, stirring continuously until the rice is tender yet slightly chewy, about 25 to 30 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Make the Pea Puree – In a food processor or blender, add 1 cup of peas, mint leaves, and water. Puree on high speed until smooth.
  • Cook the Peas – To the risotto, add the mint pea puree and the remaining peas. Cook over medium heat, stirring until hot, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add the Seasonings – Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • To Serve – Garnish the risotto with reserved bacon pieces, freshly grated parmesan, and a few mint leaves, and serve hot.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 6 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze in a resealable bag for up to 3 months, and defrost before using.
  • Reheating: If not served right away, the rice will continue to absorb the liquid and thicken further. Add more warm stock as needed right before serving to loosen the consistency. Warm over medium heat, stir, and warm until hot.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 620kcal (31%)Carbohydrates 75g (25%)Protein 21g (42%)Fat 24g (37%)Saturated Fat 8g (40%)Polyunsaturated Fat 3gMonounsaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0.1gCholesterol 39mg (13%)Sodium 936mg (39%)Potassium 602mg (17%)Fiber 5g (20%)Sugar 9g (10%)Vitamin A 563IU (11%)Vitamin C 24mg (29%)Calcium 113mg (11%)Iron 4mg (22%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Bobbi Feyerabend says

    HI Jessica
    I am new to your food ideas and enjoying what I see. Can you please tell me how many people you are cooking for? Do recipes serve 6-8? I always cook for 2, so it will be helpful to know that, and I can reduce quantities.
    I really appreciate you having the Nutrition Facts for each recipe. Useful!
    Thanks!
    Bobbi

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Welcome Bobbi! It depends on the recipe, this particular one is for 8 servings (about 1/4 cup dried rice per person). There is a feature on the actual recipe that you can adjust the amount to the serving size you need. I hope that helps!

  2. Mary says

    Dear Jessica, your recipes and your humor are both refreshing! I’m enjoying reading your blog and the free e-cookbook I received after signing up to participate in your emails. The new recipes and ideas are great, thank you!
    I do have one question about the mint used in this recipe. Could you explain how it contributes to this savory risotto/bacon mixture? What would happen to the overall experience of this if it was omitted?
    Thank you very much for all your hard work sharing all these marvelous recipes with us, Mary

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your sweet comments Mary! The mint provides a refreshing balance to the more hearty bacon notes for the palate, especially since it’s incorporated in the pea puree. If you omitted the mint that would be perfectly ok.

  3. SonSon says

    Hi Jessica
    Just want to know if you got a video of this recipe cuz it look very good and I will like to try it
    Thank you