Whilst there is some dispute over the true origins of Risotto Milanese, we like to believe the romantic tale which attributes its creation to a glass-maker’s assistant in the late-sixteenth century. This young disciple used saffron as a secret ingredient when he was mixing the colours for the glass which appears in the windows of il Duomo di Milano. He was frequently teased by his maestro, Valerio, because of his penchant for this exotic spice and was fondly nicknamed ‘Zafferano’. Then, on the eve of his marriage to Valerio’s daughter, Zafferano’s friends prepared a risotto to be served at the wedding dinner, adding a pinch of saffron to this traditional dish as an ode to the groom. The guests were initially astonished when piles of bright yellow rice were placed before them but when they tried it they were pleasantly surprised; it was a huge triumph.
Risotto Milanese is now one of the most renowned dishes enjoyed throughout Lombardia and is often served alongside Ossobucco (another speciality of the region which incorporates cross-cut veal shanks and braised vegetables in a wine-enriched broth).
This saffron-infused delicacy is the perfect remedy for the cold winter nights that are drawing in. The rich, buttery undertones of this risotto are beautifully offset by the light floral flavour of the saffron, offering up a warming bowl of golden deliciousness.
Our delicious Risotto Milanese recipe
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 50g butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ½ tsp saffron flowers
- 300g arborio or carnaroli rice
- 150ml dry white wine
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 75g grated Parmesan, with extra to serve
- First place the saffron flowers in a cup of warm (not boiling) water and soak for 30 minutes
- Heat the olive oil and half of the butter in a wide, non-stick pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion until softened
- Add the rice and toast for 30 seconds until it is coated in the butter
- Pour in the wine and allow time for it to evaporate before adding the water and saffron flowers to the pan
- In a separate pan heat the vegetable stock on a low heat and gradually transfer to the rice, one ladleful at a time, allowing each to absorb completely before adding the next. This should take about 20 minutes
- When all the liquid has been absorbed stir in the other half of the butter and the grated Parmesan
- Season to taste and top with Parmesan shavings to serve
How should I serve my Risotto Milanese?
Whilst Risotto Milanese can be served as a stand alone dish, and is a hearty meal in its own right, in Lombardy it is often paired with Ossobucco. This particular combination is perfect for a cold winter evening and offers a truly marvellous sensory experience.
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter then we suggest following a more Piedmontese tradition. You could serve a beautifully fresh piece of fish alongside your risotto or even some clams sautéed in garlic butter with a white wine and tomato sauce.
What wine should I pair with my Risotto Milanese?
Risotto Milanese is best enjoyed with a chilled glass of full-bodied white wine, like a Chardonnay. However, if you prefer vino rosso then you’re in luck because this dish is also perfectly complemented by a slightly tannic red wine.
For more ways to bring Lombardy to your home this winter, be sure to stop by our Winter in Lombardy page and order from our limited edition Lombard menu, available from 30th November to 6th December. Will you be joining us on our winter trip to Italy? Be sure to share your holiday-at-home snaps on social media using #PastaEvangelists #ItalyatHome.
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