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Saffron Risotto

Risotto allo zafferano

Ingredients for a risotto allo zafferano

Rice and saffron go well together in many traditional dishes from the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Saffron is one of the key ingredients in the traditional paella Valenciana, and Arab and Indian recipes often combine these two ingredients. With the addition of bone marrow this recipe would become Risotto alla Milanese but we’re going to keep it simple and vegetarian.

This is one of the easiest possible risotto dishes to make but a couple of things are important to bear in mind: First, it’s much better to use a home-made chicken stock rather than a watery vegetable stock in order to give more body to the finished dish and second, saffron threads are preferable to saffron powder. You could get away with saffron powder for a paella because there are so many other ingredients like chicken and artichokes but in this dish there is not much more than saffron, rice and cheese so each ingredient needs to be the best possible.

saffron threads infusing the brodo

Risotto allo Zafferano in Italy is the only risotto that is generally served together with meat, traditionally ossobuco or Cotolette alla milanese, so it could easily be a secondo piatto whereas every other risotto is normally a primo piatto. It doesn't need meat however and is delicious by itself even if it appears rather simple.

Ingredients for 2:

0.75 liter chicken stock (home-made not bought)

215 grams ( 7.75 oz) Carnaroli rice

8-10 saffron threads

half an onion chopped very finely

half glass dry white wine

35 grams ( 1.2 oz) butter

35 grams (1.2oz) parmigiano reggiano

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat the stock almost to boiling and add the saffron threads and let them steep for 15 minutes.

2. Sweat the onion in half of the butter for a few minutes until soft and translucent but not colored. Then add the rice and turn the heat up high. Stir continuously for a minute or two until all the rice is coated with the onion and butter mixture and warmed through.

3. Add half a glass of white wine and let the alcohol burn off for half a minute until the rice becomes a little dry again.

4. From this point until the rice is cooked will take around 18 minutes. Start by adding a full ladle of hot stock to the risotto and now you’ll need to stay by the stove and stir regularly until the rice is fully cooked. Add the stock to the risotto one ladle at a time whenever the rice starts to dry out but don’t drown the rice by adding too much at once.

After 15 minutes check for salt and start tasting the rice to determine when it’s full cooked. If you run out of stock keep some boiling water to hand to keep the process going because cold water will reduce the temperature and affect the timing. Add smaller quantities of stock at this point because you don’t want to be left with a soupy mess when the rice is fully cooked.

5. As soon as the rice is cooked turn the heat off, let it rest for a minute and then with a wooden spoon vigorously beat into the risotto some cold butter from the fridge and the cheese. Check for seasoning and serve.

Risotto allo Zafferano

This is a very simple risotto but much more tasty and satisfying than you would think given the limited ingredients and visually very appealing also.


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