Whether you serve it as a side dish or as an entrée, this traditional Risotto alla Milanese (or Saffron Risotto) does not disappoint. Creamy rice with the subtle fragrance and flavor of saffron — you would surely be asking for seconds!
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A creamy rice dish is always excellent comfort food. But if you add saffron and cheese to that — just heavenly.
And on the off chance that you have some risotto Milanese leftovers, do what I usually do, serve them as arancini the following day.
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- Olive oil – I suggest using extra virgin olive oil.
- Rice – I always use medium-grain rice from North Italy called carnaroli. It’s the best type of rice for making risotto alla Milanese because it has a higher starch content, and it keeps its shape better.
- Onion – yellow onion, chopped as finely as possible.
- White wine – any dry white wine will be great for this saffron risotto recipe.
- Saffron – you can use powder or saffron threads.
- Butter – I use unsalted butter for this recipe.
- Parmigiano Reggiano – freshly grated for adding creaminess and for serving.
- Stock – to keep it authentic, I use veal stock for this risotto Milanese recipe.
- Salt – you might not need to use this at all if your stock is seasoned.
Start preparing your risotto Milanese by bringing the stock to a boil (photo 1).
Keep it simmering — a crucial step in making saffron risotto.
Using a medium to a large pan, pour and heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add chopped onion and cook until it’s softened.
Add rice and cook for about three to four minutes, toasting the grain while mixing (photo 2).
Pour wine (photo 3).
Let the wine evaporate while mixing the rice; you should see the creaminess starting to come out now.
Pour about a ladle and a half of the simmering stock (photo 4).
Continue stirring until the liquid is almost gone, then pour another ladle of the stock. Keep repeating this for about twelve minutes.
Add the saffron (photo 5).
Repeat the process of pouring stock again until the rice is cooked, typically about six more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning during this time.
Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and grated parmigiano Reggiano (photo 6).
Stir gently to mix, then cover with a lid for about a minute.
Transfer your risotto alla Milanese into plates, then serve — add more grated cheese on top, if desired.
- Chop the onion as fine as you can.
It should disappear into the rice once the pan of saffron risotto is taken off the heat.
- While it generally takes twenty minutes to cook the rice, there can be some minor differences in cooking time.
Hence, make sure you check the instructions in the package of the rice.
- If you are not using seasoned stock, start seasoning your risotto alla Milanese earlier, then just adjust it in the latter part of cooking.
- The butter needs to be chilled, not softened.
- When seasoning, keep in mind that you still need to add the parmigiano; so, go easy on the salt.
- Other stock. While using veal stock is the authentic way of making risotto alla Milanese, beef and chicken stock can also be used as an alternative.
- Arborio rice. This short-grain rice is more widely available than carnaroli and is an excellent substitute for this classic saffron risotto recipe.
- Sparkling wine. While I have always used dry white wine, I have some friends who prefer to use prosecco instead. So don’t hesitate to give it a try.
- Stracchino cheese. It’s certainly not traditional, but adding some stracchino (a type of Italian soft cheese) at the last cooking stage will add more creaminess to your risotto Milanese.
Any type of risotto is best served when it’s just out of the pan because it dries up quickly.
On occassions where you have leftovers that you still want to serve, you need to transfer the cold risotto to a pan, pour some hot stock and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Otherwise, you will end up serving a chunk of sticky rice.
See how easy it is to make risotto Milanese? Give it a try this week, and let me know what you think!
Risotto Milanese Recipe (Classic Saffron Risotto)
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups stock, boiled and simmering
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup rice
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1/3 cup parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- 1/8 tsp saffron
- salt, to season
- Start with the most critical step in making saffron risotto: Bring the stock to a boil, then keep it simmering.
- Using a medium to a large pan, pour and heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
- Add chopped onion and cook until it's softened.
- Add rice and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, toasting and making sure each grain is coated with oil while mixing.
- Pour wine into the pan.
- Let the wine evaporate while mixing the rice; you should see the creaminess starting to come out by now.
- Pour about a ladle and a half of the simmering stock.
- Continue stirring until the liquid is almost gone, then pour another ladle of the stock. Keep repeating this for about 12 minutes.
- Add the saffron.
- Repeat the process of pouring stock again until the rice is cooked, typically about 6 more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning during this time.
- Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and grated parmigiano Reggiano.
- Stir gently to mix, then cover with a lid for about a minute.
- Transfer your hot saffron risotto into plates.
- Serve risotto Milanese with more grated parmigiano on top, if preferred.
- Cook’s Tip #1: Chop the onion as fine as you can. It should completely disappear in your risotto Milanese.
- Cook’s Tip #2: While it generally takes twenty minutes to cook the rice, there can be some minor differences in cooking time. Hence, make sure you check what’s indicated in the package of the rice.
- Cook’s Tip #3: If you are not using seasoned stock, start seasoning your saffron risotto earlier, then just adjust it in the latter part of cooking.
- Cook’s Tip #4: The butter needs to be chilled, not softened.
- Cook’s Tip #5: When seasoning, keep in mind that you will add the grated parmigiano later; so, go easy on the salt.