Welcome to another small chapter of my making of!
This week I am trying to set up some functions, like emails and notifications, which is proving to be more challenging than I thought! Luckily my boyfriend understands this kind of things better than me and he’s here to save the day.
In the meantime, I do what I like most: cooking of course!
Today we move towards north, precisely to Lombardia, home of one of the most delightful dishes of Italian tradition: risotto allo zafferano!
Let’s also move back in time, because this recipe starts with a legend that bonds the origin of this risotto to the construction of the Duomo of Milan.
In 1574 Valerio of Flanders, famous Flemish glass maker, was working on the stain glass windows of the Duomo representing episodes of the life of Sant’Elena. Among his apprentices, one in particular had been nicknamed “Zafferano” for the massive use he made of saffron in the preparation of colors, with wonderful effects.
One day Valerio exclaimed, laughing: “If you keep doing like this, one day you’ll put saffron in risotto as well!” On 8 September 1574, during the wedding celebration of Valerio’s daughter, Zafferano – somebody say as a joke, others as a gift- added some saffron to the rice served during the wedding feast. The guests were astonished in front of such a wonder, it looked like gold grains! Thus the yellow rice was a resounding success and was eaten down to the last grain, originating one of the biggest classics of Milan cuisine.
Moving from legend to facts, let’s talk about important stuff!
I love this risotto because it’s such an essential dish, but at the same time it brings out the best aromatic qualities of saffron; moreover, thanks to the strong coloring power of this spice, the rice grains assume this attractive gold color that is really a feast for your eyes. Nevertheless, saffron is also pretty expensive, reason for which I generally make use of the powdered one. If you happen to have threads, consider to use around 6-7 of them per person.
According to the original recipe of risotto alla milanese contained in “Le ricette regionali italiane”, by Anna Gosetti della Salda, you need to use beef marrow. This is an old, classic version and today many people do without it, me included. To start with, beef marrow is not so easy to find. Moreover, I personally prefer to use a vegetable stock in this risotto – normally you should use a meat stock – so I don’t really need it. If you prefer to include it, remember to cut it off in very small pieces and cook it at the beginning, before adding the rice. More important for me is the quality of stock: try to use a homemade stock if possible. I make mine at home and I store it in the fridge, so I can use it anytime!
Now, what about the rice? Of course, the most natural choice for me would be Carnaroli, a starchy and firm rice variety that better retains flavors and doesn’t risk being overcooked. Anyway, if you don’t find it, feel free to use Arborio – I also do it when I can’t find Carnaroli! So, no worries and let’s start cooking!
Ingredients (2 servings)
1 liter(4 cups) stock
60 gr (¼ cup) butter
1 small onion or shallot
180 gr (1 cup) Carnaroli rice (Arborio in alternative)
50 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
1 sachet powdered saffron
50 gr (½ cup, 1.8 oz) Parmesan
Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium pot and let it simmer for the whole procedure; a cold stock would prevent the rice from cooking properly!
Chop finely the shallot or onion. Heat half butter in a medium size non-stick pan and add the chopped shallot. Cook over medium heat until the shallow becomes soft.
Add the rice and sauté until translucent. In Italy we say we are “toasting” the rice during this passage. Stir and sweat the rice for around 3/4 minutes.
Pour the wine and stir, until it evaporates.
Add 2 ladles of stock and cook, keeping on stirring, until the stock is absorbed. From this moment on, you should keep on repeating this procedure with the rest of the stock.
Around 10 minutes after adding the first ladle of stock, melt the powdered saffron separately in some stock and add it to the rice.
Keep cooking and stirring adding stock little by little until rice is cooked “al dente” (meaning firm to the bite, literally in Italian “to the tooth”). This should take around 18-20 minutes after the first ladle of stock is added, depending on the rice you are using. To be sure not to overcook it, at this stage it is better to taste the rice every minute, also to check if you need to adjust with salt.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the rest of the butter and the Parmesan cheese and stir until completely melted. This last, very important procedure is called mantecatura and it is really the big, fat secret of a successful risotto. It is here that the starch develops into magical creaminess!
Cover the pan with a lid for a couple of minutes and let it rest before serving.
Your saffron risotto is ready!
Saffron Risotto Recipe
The recipe for one of the most famous Italian risotto!
- 1 liter(4 cups) stock
- 60 gr (¼ cup) butter
- 1 small onion or shallot
- 180 gr (1 cup) Carnaroli rice (Arborio in alternative)
- 50 ml (¼ cup) dry white wine
- 1 sachet powdered saffron
- 50 gr (½ cup, 1.8 oz) Parmesan
- Step 1 Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium pot.
- Step 2 Chop finely the shallot or onion.
- Step 3 Heat half butter in a pan and add the chopped shallot. Cook over medium heat until the shallow becomes soft.
- Step 4 Add the rice and sauté until translucent (4 minutes).
- Step 5 Pour the wine and stir, until it evaporates.
- Step 6 Add 2 ladles of stock and cook, keeping on stirring, until the stock is absorbed.
- Step 7 Repeat the procedure with the rest of the stock.
- Step 8 In the meantime melt the powdered saffron separately in some stock.
- Step 9 Add it to the rice.
- Step 10 Keep cooking and stirring adding stock little by little until rice is cooked “al dente”.
- Step 11 Taste the rice to adjust with salt if needed.
- Step 12 Remove from heat.
- Step 13 Add the rest of the butter and Parmesan.
- Step 14 Stir until completely melted.
- Step 15 Cover the pan with a lid for a couple of minutes and let it rest before serving.