Risotto alla Milanese

I have only been to Milano a few times and despite the crappy weather and the grey skies, it is a city that I could see myself living in. It has a more cosmopolitan feel to it, is closer to the rest of Europe and with my Dutch-Swedish background, the lack of chaos and frustration so characteristic of Rome, is enticing. Even though I think that it is a very elegant, with the art deco buildings and fantastic design, it isn’t as lusciously beautiful as Rome. Honestly though, after 2 and a half years here in my adult life, I am starting to think that Rome may be better appreciated in small doses, staying in a hotel or an apartment in centro, not having to take a crowded bus to work everyday, holding on to my purse with a steel grip so that its contents don’t get stolen. All of this could almost be charming if I didn’t have to deal with it everyday. Old ladies elbowing you to cut the line in the grocery store, maybe after a week I would still find it amusing, I would think “oh those Romans, they are so quirky!”. Ah those were the days, when everything was still charming and authentic, before it all became real and I realized that NOTHING would ever change in this country, especially in this city. Apparently things change in Milano, wait this is supposed to be about food, isn’t it?

zafferano zafferano

So let’s talk about food.

butter butter chopped onions risotto

One of Milano’s most famous dishes is risotto with saffron, a very simple, but very elegant dish. Though I have never actually eaten risotto alla milanese in Milano, my husband lived there for a number of years before we met, and learned how to make it from his ex-girlfriend’s mother, who was a milanese D.O.C. She taught him that you always have to stir the risotto in the same direction, which I still don’t understand and that you should only use butter and NEVER olive oil.

risotto with saffron

Of course this goes against everything that Southern Italians are taught from the moment they are born. Southern Italians are taught that butter is the antichrist. It isn’t about butter being unhealthy because traditional foods in every region in the South has a long list of deep fried food, melted cheese and vegetables cooked to a pulp. No, they think that butter is heavy and will sit on your stomach for days. I think that this is ridiculous, but try getting in an argument about food with an Italian, no matter how wrong they may be, you will loose.

risotto alla milanese

Risotto alla Milanese

  • 1 cup of carnaroli or Arborio rice (Italians measure rice by demitasse cups, 1 cup for each person and one for the pot)
  • 1 packet of saffron powder
  • ½ an onion, chopped finely
  • 4½ cups beef broth (recipe to follow)
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
  • salt to taste

Chop onion into fine pieces and bring the beef broth to a simmer.

Heat a large stovetop casserole pan over medium-high heat and melt butter at the bottom of the pan, covering the pan. When the butter is melted add onion and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add rice and coat it in the butter, toasting it a bit. When the rice becomes opaque, after about 1 minute add a cup of wine to the pan, enough to cover the rice, stir frequently.

When the rice has absorbed the wine, add a ladleful of broth to the pan and continue stirring. Repeat and once the rice starts to absorb the broth add the saffron. Continue adding the broth as the rice absorbs it, you want it to almost dry out before adding the broth each time.

When the rice is finished it should be al dente and all of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from heat and toss chopped parsley in. Serve immediately.

Beef Broth


  • 1 ossobuco (or any small piece of beef with the bone)
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 2 stalk of celery, cleaned
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cups of water
  • pinch of salt

Place all of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil, let boil until the beef has cooked through fish and the carrot seems to be cooked through, strain with a sieve into another pot and set aside for risotto.

*The marrow in the ossobuco is traditionally added to the risotto, I didn’t try this, the thought kind of grosses me out.

risotto alla milanese risotto alla milanese

~ by italicious on November 19, 2008.

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