Risotto alla Milanese - Saffron Risotto
We always had an insane curiosity for food that would change colour when heated up. Like prawns, that they become all pink no matter the original shade. Or saffron, that from red turns everything yellow.
Coming from Milan, you understand how this fascination would be easily satisfied by our city's most famous recipe: Risotto alla Milanese. It seemed only fair to share a recipe that is probably one of the oldest in our books.
Ingredients for 4 people
For the Broth
2 Celery sticks cut in small cubes
1 Carrot cut in small cubes
1 Onion cut in small cubes
1 Shallot cut in small cubes
800g of lean beef. This was used in our grandma original recipe, of course you can adapt it and use chicken or vegetables only.
Salt (approximately 5g of salt per 1L of broth, to add at the end)
2L of water
For the Risotto
360g Carnaroli "Perfect Risotto" Rice
1 Shallot cut in small cubes
1 Glass of Sauvignon Blanc
50g Butter at room temperature
50g Grated Parmesan Cheese
We make the broth ourselves for a number of reasons: it's healthier, packed with flavour, much lighter to digest and it speaks of home, grandma and Christmas. Maybe we'll get to sit down all together one day and share stories of our childhood, and maybe, I'll get to tell how my great grandmother used to make amazing tortellini the size of a thumb, served simply with broth. But that's for another time.
For the broth
1. Place 2L of water in a pot, place the meat inside and bring it to a boil. Then add all the vegetables cut in cubes, and gentle boil for 1h and half. Adjust the salt at the end, the vegetables and meat could give different flavours depending on the season or the quality of the meat.
Tip: make it the night before, strain it and leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning you'll find a small, (or large, depending on how fatty the meat was) layer of fat at the top. Remove it before you warm up the broth for the risotto. You can either use it instead of the butter or you can throw it away. Mind you, that's the old way: it's pretty intense and if the meat was too fatty it can actually ruin the risotto. Trust your nose on this.
For the risotto
2. Heat up the pan, and at a lower to medium heat cook the butter and shallot cut in cubes until soft and golden brown. It works better if you do it with slow-medium heat for a longer time, rather than high temperature for few minutes.
3. Turn the heat up, and add the rice. Toast it for about a minute, then add the glass of wine. Let the alcohol evaporate from the rice then start adding the broth, always making sure the rice is completely covered. Stir occasionally and add more broth every time the rice seems dry.
The trickiest part is to keep adding water but making sure there is not too much closer to the end. You don't want the risotto to be too runny or overcooked because the broth hasn't evaporated yet.
To prepare the saffron
4. Put the threads in a small bowl and add some broth. Stir gently. At 3/4 of the cooking time, add the saffron to the risotto.
5. Last step before serving, the "mantecatura": remove the pan from the heat, then add the Parmesan cheese and the butter. Let it rest for a couple of minutes, then stir gently.
6. Serve to your guest with a glass of Nebbiolo from Lombardy, this way you're keeping the wine close to where the recipe is from. We are in no way affiliated with them but we hear Fay Sforzato di Valtellina Ronco 2010 is highly recommended.
Why the red wine? Well, saffron goes pretty well with both white and red. Some says you can drink the same wine you use during the cooking, some take it to a different level to explore the complexity of the spice.
And lastly, we've used the same pan for over 30 years. It travelled with us to two different continents. Make sure the one you pick allows the rice to stick to the bottom. And to burn a little. That's the best part.