Risotto alla Milanese (Saffron Risotto)

Risotto is a quick and easy dish to make–it just requires that you pay it some attention. As long as you stick around to keep stirring, you should be in good shape–this isn’t a dish that you just set on heat and come back to in 20 minutes. Your reward is an amazingly creamy and rich side dish.

Finished saffron risotto

Risotto is traditionally an Italian dish made from a special kind of rice. When you treat risotto the way its meant to be treated, you tease the creaminess out of the rice without cooking the entire dish down into mush–each grain will still have its own individual, slightly firm and distinct shape. The result is a side dish that is always a pleasure to eat–bursting with flavor, creaminess, and the familiarity of rice. This particular version (and oh are there many!) enhances the flavor of the risotto in a very traditional fashion: with broth as the cooking liquid and both saffron and fresh parmigiano-reggiano to really make it all sing. This risotto has body, nuttiness, creaminess, and that delightful touch that saffron adds to just about anything it touches.

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 3-3.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbsp (3/8 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

The first thing you should do is set your chicken stock aside in a saucepan. Let this sit over medium heat. You’re going to need the stock to be not-quite-boiling throughout this recipe as you’re going to keep adding it to the risotto in batches, but you don’t have the time to heat it up later while you’re cooking. So anyways, get the stock going. Also take this opportunity to break up the saffron, grinding/chopping it down as finely as you can. Let it steep in the stock so that it can infuse it with color and flavor, ready for you when you need it.

Cook the shallot, toast the rice

Dice up the shallot finely and in a skilet (not a saucepan), get one tablespoon of butter melted down on medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot briefly–just enough to soften it (maybe 3-5 minutes).

Once the shallot is cooked, add in the rice so that it can sauté as well–this is just to give the rice a little texture and a slight toasty flavor. Give this a stir after a minute and let it sit for another minute (unless you’re so meticulous as to be able to brown all sides of each grain of rice. I’ll happily just guess 😉 ).

So now, you’re ready to get cooking. The important thing to do during all of this: stir. If you have to step away to do something else, get somebody else to stir. The risotto is alive (well, not technically) and letting it just sit there will kill it. Killing risotto is wrong.

The rice is getting some color and creaminess…don’t stop stirring!

So first, pour in the wine. Stir the rice until all of the wine is absorbed. Then, scoop is 1/2-1 cup of the hot broth into the pan and keep stirring until entirely absorbed by the rice (this will take just a few minutes). Keep doing this until you’ve used up all of the broth (so that’s a minimum of 3 batches) and you will see that rice grow up right before your eyes: it will get nice and creamy with each additional pour. Once you’ve exhausted all of the broth and it is all absorbed into the rice, you give it the final punch of creaminess: add in the cheese and remaining butter and stir it around until entirely incorporated. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper as you see fit.


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8 Responses to “Risotto alla Milanese (Saffron Risotto)”

  1. Pam Says:

    Mike, I love risotto! With the addition of some vegetables (and sometimes seafood), it’s the perfect one dish meal.

  2. mike Says:

    Pam — same here! I haven’t had it as a full meal on its own yet, but I’m thinking I will have to soon.

  3. Bellini Valli Says:

    I have really delved into risotto lately at restaurants Mike. Your version does look delicious!!! Thanks for visiting my site because now I have found yours. I’ll look forward to many more delcious recipes coming from Mike’s Table in 2008!!

  4. mike Says:

    Bellini — glad to, I’ll be watching regularly. I haven’t had a lot of risotto, but I’ll have to keep an eye out for it at restaurants to see some of the umpteen other ways its made out there. Who ever knew rice could be so good?

  5. Katerina Says:

    In our house we like this so much we have it as a main on special nights!

  6. mike Says:

    Katerina — just curious, how do you typically prepare it as a main?

  7. Chef Says:

    what does it taste like?

  8. Lamb and Red Pepper Paella from Mike's Table Says:

    […] rice dish (or maybe that was just me). Well firstly, rice is awesome. Secondly, paella, like risotto is in a league all its own in the rice-world. This Spanish dish is not just “stuff” […]

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