Creamy and delicious, risotto alla Milanese is a dish that cannot be missing in the arsenal of an Italian homechef. Learn here how to make the traditional one.
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Did you know that the origins of Risotto alla Milanese date back to the 1500s? We owe the introduction of rice to Europe to the Arabs, who brought it to southern Italy in the 13th century. From there, rice made its way to the Po Valley thanks to the contacts between the Aragonese and the Sforza, or maybe even because of Jewish merchants traveling across Europe. The marshy soils of the Po Valley were particularly suitable for rice cultivation, which made it a staple of Lombard cuisine.
It all started with a wedding
Now, here’s a fun story about the origin of Risotto alla Milanese that is found in the Trivulziana library. During the wedding of the daughter of Mastro Valerio di Fiandra, a Flemish painter who worked on the windows of the Milan Cathedral, his assistant Zafferano added a little saffron to the risotto. Zafferano used to mix saffron with his colors to make them more lively, so he thought it could add some flavor to the dish too. Surprisingly, the guests loved the addition of saffron to the risotto, and the dish became the same color as gold, a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Since then, Risotto alla Milanese has been a famous and creamy first course of Lombard cuisine.
Or maybe it was just a peasant recipe
Some historians believe that the true ancestor of Milanese risotto is “rice with zafran,” a kosher recipe popular among Jews and Arabs. It is a simple dish that consists of boiling rice with fresh stems of saffron. Even the word “saffron” itself has Arab origins, deriving from the Arabic “zaʿfarān” and the Persian “zaâfara,” which both refer to the crocus plant from which saffron is obtained.
Risotto alla Milanese is delicious, but given the high fat content, it needs to be enjoyed with moderation.
- Proteins 8% 8%
- Carbs 43% 43%
- Fats 49% 49%
Step by Step Instructions
To start, heat up the bone marrow, 60 gr (4 tbsps) of butter, and finely chopped onion in a saucepan over low heat until the onion takes on a beautiful light golden hue. Then add the rice! Be sure to stir it well so it toasts and won’t break up during the cooking.
Next, raise the heat and start pouring in some boiling broth, one ladleful at a time, while stirring the rice regularly with a wooden spoon. This step is crucial to achieving the perfect texture for your risotto, so take your time and enjoy the process. Depending on the type of rice you’re using, this step should take around fifteen minutes.
As the ice starts to absorbs the broth, keep adding more a little at a time. Be careful, though! You don’t want to overcook the rice and end up with a mushy mess. Keep an eye on it and make sure the rice stays “al dente,” meaning it has a slight firmness to it.
Now, it’s time to add the saffron! You can either dissolve some saffron pistils in two-thirds of the broth halfway through the cooking process, or simply add some saffron powder at the end. This will give your risotto a beautiful golden color and a delicate, fragrant aroma.
Finally, add the remaining butter and grated Parmesan cheese to the risotto, stirring everything together, then let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Adjust the salt to your taste and voila! Your risotto is ready to be devoured.
If you don’t want to make the beef stock from scratch, use commercial vegetable stock instead. Avoid using the commercial beef stock, which it’s to strong and will overpower the delicate balance of flavour of your risotto.
The key to a perfect risotto is to keep it fairly liquid, “all’onda,” so that the grains are well separated but held together by the creamy binder.
If you have leftovers, make the traditional “risotto al salto.” Give the risotto a round shape and the thickness of an omelet. Heat a good amount of clarified butter in a pan. Brown on both sides until the rice binds and solidifies, forming a crispy and golden crust; serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.