Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese


“The Risotto alla Milanese” is a typical dish of the Milanese cooking tradition. It dates back to 1574 when a glass artisan named Zafferano added some saffron that he used for coloring his paints to his risotto for his daughter’s wedding. Saffron comes from the tiny purple crocus flowers that produce three stigmas per flower that are hand picked and dried. It takes 14,000 of these delicate stigmas to produce one ounce of saffron! It is best to use the dried pistils…but if you can’t find them… a good (and not expensive!) substitute is the saffron powder.

Arborio rice comes from Italy. Its short, fat grains have a hard starchy center and a soft starchy shell. So it makes sense that, when cooked, the soft shell produces creaminess while the center remains crunchy.

The best arborio rice is a premium Carnaroli rice imported from Italy. It’s hard to find but worth the search!


400 g (14 oz) arborio rice, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
60 g (2 oz) butter
50 g (1.7 oz) beef marrow (get this from your butcher), minced
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
¾ glass of white, dry, non sparkling wine (must be warmed up)
0.5 g (0.01 oz) of saffron pistils or 2 packets of saffron powder
80 g (3 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
1.5 liter (6.5 cups) good meat broth, boiling hot (use my broth recipe below!)
Salt to taste


In a casserole, simmer the finely sliced onion and the beef marrow in half the butter over low flame for about 10 minutes; the onion should become translucent but not brown. Add the rice and sauté the rice over a moderate flame for 7-8 minutes, stirring constantly and let it lightly toast.

Stir in the warmed wine and cook, stirring, until it has completely evaporated. Then stir in one ladle of the hot broth, and once most of it has been absorbed add another, stirring until it absorbed. Continue in this fashion, adding liquid until the rice is almost at the al dente stage. It is very important not to add the broth all together, but stirring constantly, adding one ladle at the time in order to release the rice’s starch.

When you get to half of the cooking, stir in the saffron (previously diluted in one ladle of warm broth), add salt if needed, and finish the cooking (altogether it will take 18–20 minutes), then turn off the heat. Add the remaining butter, and the Parmesan cheese. Stir for about 20 seconds, cover and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

You can serve it either as a bed for Ossobuco alla Milanese (see recipe below) or as a first course, with more Parmesan cheese on the side.


If you serve Risotto as a first dish you can add ultra thin gold leaves on top, it makes a precious and raffinata presentation!

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Call Isabella Now!