How do you transform a humble split yellow pea soup into something fancy? Easy! Risotto-ized it. I know, that’s pretty much my answer to everything. Give me a beloved soup and I’ll try to cook rice with it. Remember this shrimp-tastic adventure? Or this golden oldie? But while I love both of these recipes dearly, I have to say they were a tad, um, involved. Both risottos proved to be the equivalent of making two meals. First, you have to make the soup and then you have to stir it into a risotto. Frankly, it’s all too much for a Tuesday. But today’s Split Pea Risotto with Kale and Bacon is far more low maintenance. Stop laughing! I’m serious. Honestly, you could make this Risotto for yourself on a Wednesday if you wanted.Jump to Recipe
Now, there is one disclaimer to get out of the way before we get started: I find stirring risotto deeply relaxing. If you think I’m out to lunch that’s fair because I very much am. But I do feel like I can’t be alone in this opinion. I’m also equally sure that this is not a commonly held belief. If risotto stirring is not your idea of a good time, try it with wine. And if that fails, this Split Pea Risotto is probably not the “low maintenance” meal for you. Everything feels like work if you hate it and nothing does if you like it. So, think seriously about your feelings towards stirring before attempting this recipe. And move forward through this post with the knowledge that a person who freakishly enjoys repetitive tasks wrote it. Cool? Cool.
I believe this Split Pea Risotto is low-maintenance because you don’t really have to make soup prior to cooking the rice. You simply throw a cup of dried split yellow peas into some store-bought veggie stock, bring the thing to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. None of this is bizarre with the exception the split yellow peas. You would do the same with any straight-ahead stock for a plain jane risotto. The only difference here is you want the stock to simmer for a good 20 minutes before introducing it to the rice. The idea is to give the split yellow peas a bit of a head start in the cooking process.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, this crazy lady is telling me to do 20 minutes of cooking before I start cooking. Well, you’re half right. You do have to simmer for a full 20 minutes before the stock is ready for risotto purposes but in that time you can sauté the bacon followed by the onions and the garlic. You can deglaze the pan with white wine and toast the all-important rice. It’s not like you have to do anything to ease along the simmering process. You essentially get 20 minutes of multi-tasked prep time. Or at least that how I like to look at it.
From there it truly is a situation normal risotto-cooking-experience. The split peas with continue to lose their shape and turn creamy as they cook alongside the rice and the residual bacon fat in the pan will flavor the dish and make your home smell like a waffle house in the best way possible. But speaking of the bacon, you don’t have to add it. True your home won’t be mistaken for a delightful diner, but your dinner will be vegetarian, which is cool too. What I’m saying is bacon isn’t integral to the recipe, it’s just a nice flavor. This Split Pea Risotto will behave the same way and taste like bliss with or without the bacon.
The ingredient that I do feel is non-negotiable is the kale. Have you ever had lacinato kale? Of course, you have because you’ve made every single one of my recipes, right? Totally kidding, I know y’all have lives. But honestly, those lives have more than enough room for lacinato kale with its tender leaf, gorgeously deep green hue and quick cooking time. It’s basically the holy grail of the produce aisle…that might be over-selling it. Might. But anyway, try it and see if you agree with me. And those of you who hate kale, try this bad boy and see if you still hate it. I double dog dare ya!
Risotto is, of course, known for being creamy because it is. But I have to say, I think the split peas really upped the anti. The peas bring a certain velvet quality to the dish. When matched with a splash of cream and the silky texture of the arborio rice, the split peas truly sing. And the golden hue they impart on the dish certainly doesn’t hurt either.
You may have noticed I opted to fry the bacon in this dish first and then stir it in at the very end. I am well aware that when making yellow split pea soup, the bacon is typically cooked alongside the soup, so it imparts its flavor throughout the cooking process. And you know what? That’s great! But I felt that in a sea of creaminess, it never hurts to have a little crunch. So, I thought the bacon would serve the dish better as a garnish rather than a fixture. You can, of course, add the bacon earlier in the cooking process if you wish.
So, that’s everything (and probably more) you need to know about this Split Pea Risotto with Lacinato Kale and Bacon. It really is a snap to make and will take you roughly an hour end-to-end. I know that’s not particularly impressive given how many 30-minute meals are floating around the Internet, but writing a recipe that takes less than an hour is definitely not an everyday occurrence for this girl.
Split Pea Risotto with Lacinato Kale and Bacon
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup split yellow peas dried
- 4 strips bacon coarsely chopped
- 1 sweet onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1 1/2 cups grana padano cheese shredded
- 2 cups lacinato kale stalks removed, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup half and half
- Pour the vegetable broth in a large saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Once the broth is boiling add the split peas and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 20 minutes.
- While the peas are simmering, place the bacon in a cold, deep skillet and place the skillet over medium heat. Fry the bacon until very crisp. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon out of the pan and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Set aside.
- Pour all but 2 tbsps of the bacon fat into a glass jar and set aside. Return the skillet to the heat and add the onion and a healthy sprinkling of salt. Reduce the heat to low and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until just translucent.
- Stir the garlic into the onions and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan. Stir in the rice and increase the heat to medium. Toss the rice until you can hear it crackling.
- By now the split peas should be tender but retain their shape. Ladle some of the broth and split peas onto the toasted rice. Stir until the liquid is completely absorbed. Repeat with the remaining stock and split peas. This should take roughly 30 minutes.
- Once the stock is fully integrated and the rice is creamy. Take the risotto off of the heat and stir in the kale, cheese, and cream. Keep stirring until the kale wilts and the cheese has melted completely.
- Divide the risotto amongst four bowls and top with the reserved crispy bacon and an extra sprinkling of cheese. Serve immediately.