Risotto Milanese – Italian Saffron Risotto done traditional way.
Ever since my teenage years I’m keeping a cookbook called “Cooking School” by an Italian chef Simonetta Lupi Vada. Here I’m sharing with you her recipe for an authentic Risotto alla Milanese.
The main ingredient in this recipe is pricey saffron spice. You only need a pinch or two of saffron threads to turn a plain risotto into this colorful delight. Saffron needs to be steeped in hot water for about 5 minutes before it is added to the rice. It is even better to crush it with pestle and mortar prior to steeping.
Authentic recipe calls for beef bone marrow. Nowadays it is not widely used and cannot be easily found, so modern chefs often don’t use it any more.
The secret of good risotto is to cook it on low heat and add liquid ladle by ladle. If liquid is added all at once, the rice will be cooked without releasing starch which gives it creamy consistency. The broth needs to be hot so that rice does not cool down every time you add it.
Heavy bottomed aluminum dish is best for cooking risotto as it conducts heat evenly. Non-stick coating can help you not to burn the rice.
Risotto Milanese is one of rare traditional dishes which we know exactly the year it was first made: 1754 AD. The history of Risotto Milanese is quite well known. In that year a group of Belgian glass-makers were working on windows of Milan cathedral. A leading painter Valerio della Fiandra was preparing a wedding feast for his daughter. His team of painters wanted to have some fun with him so they put a little bit of saffron (which was used as a yellow color to stain cathedral’s glass windows) into risotto. When it was served, the guests were startled at first, but when they tried it, they were pleasantly surprised. From this time on, citizens of Milan are making their risotto with addition of saffron spice.
- 1 lb Arborio rice (400 g)
- 1.7 oz veal bone marrow (optional) (50 g)
- 1/3 cup butter (70 g)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (50 g)
- 2 pinches saffron threads or 1/4 tsp powdered saffron, steeped in 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 small onion
- 1/2 cup white wine (60 ml)
- 5 - 6 cups boiling veal or beef broth
- salt, pepper
In a large pot melt 1/2 butter and cook the onion and bone marrow together over medium heat until the onion is translucent.
Add rice and white wine. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add enough stock to just cover the rice. Keep adding warm stock as needed to maintain covering. Continue this process for about 20 minutes, until rice is tender.
A few minutes before the rice is done, add the diluted saffron and stir.
Add the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese and stir. Cover and leave the risotto for 5 minutes before serving. Your Risotto Milanese should be creamy.