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Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese, With Saffron

Risotto alla Milanese, With Saffron

Artusi remarked, a little more than a century ago, that the preparation of risotto alla milanese is best left to the Milanese, and then gave three recipes — likely for those too far from Milan to leave the preparation to the Milanese.

It is true that the dish offers a great chef an excellent opportunity to showcase her talents, but a home cook can do very well with care.

To serve 6:

  • 3 cups (600g) short grained rice, e.g. Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 1 1/2 quarts (1.5 l) good meat broth, simmering
  • 2/3 cup (120 g) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 ounces (70 g) beef marrow (get this from your butcher, or an oriental market), minced
  • A small onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (250 ml) dry white (not oaky) wine, warmed
  • A packet of saffron pistils (about 0.1 g — powdered will do, but pistils are much better)
  • 2 1/3 cups (120 g) grated Parmigiano (half this if you are using the risotto as a bed for ossibuchi)
  • 6 sheets real gold leaf (quite optional, as garnish for a truly extravagant meal) – another option for garnishing is 6 chives

Place the saffron pistils in a bowl to steep with some of the meat broth.

In a casserole, simmer the finely sliced onion and the beef marrow in half the butter over an extremely low flame for about 10 minutes; the onion should become translucent but not brown.

Remove the onion and marrow with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Sauté the rice over a moderate flame for 7-10 minutes, stirring constantly lest the rice stick and burn. About a minute before the rice is done, return the onion mixture to the pot.

Stir in the wine and cook, stirring, until it has evaporated. Next, stir in a ladle of the hot broth, and once most has been absorbed, another, stirring and adding liquid until the rice is almost at the al dente stage.

Stir in the saffron pistils, the remainder of the butter, half the cheese, turn of the flame, and let the risotto sit covered for a minute.

Then serve it, either as a bed for ossibuchi or as a first course, with the remainder of the cheese on the side. If you are serving the risotto with the gold leaf, divvy it into individual portions in the kitchen and carefully lay a sheet of gold over each.

Note: The gold leaf was introduced by Gualtiero Marchesi, one of Italy’s most popular and influential chefs. It does add a unique touch to the dish.

How to make risotto, Illustrated


Risotto col Vino, Red Wine Risotto

Risotto al Vino, Wine Risotto

Risotto al Vino, Wine Risotto

This is a dish you’ll find throughout Northern Italy; the name changes with location because so does the wine. In Piemonte it’s risotto col Barbera or (on important occasions) col Barolo, and in the Veneto region it’s risotto col Valpolicella, or, when people are extravagant, Risotto all’Amarone.

The important thing is that the wine be dry; the finished dish will have a pleasing tartness that goes quite well with grated cheese, and, as a first course, is a wonderful beginning of a meal. It won’t work as well as a one-course meal, but will could work nicely as a side dish I think (though an Italian would never serve it as such).

Drawing from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli’s La Cucina Lombarda:

  • 2 1/2 cups (500 g) Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 1 quart (1 liter) simmering beef broth (lightly salted bullion will do)
  • 3 cups (750 ml) dry red wine, warmed
  • 2 cups (100 g; this may be more than you need) freshly grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano
  • Salt to taste

Heat half the butter in a pot, add the rice, and cook over a very low flame, stirring lest it stick and burn. In the meantime, sauté the onion separately, in 1/4 cup of butter, until it is lightly browned. Keep warm.

Risotto al Vino, Wine Risotto

Risotto al Vino, Wine Risotto

When the rice is done frying and the grains have become translucent, begin adding the wine, a glass at a time, and letting it evaporate between additions. Then add broth, a ladle at a time, and stir in the onions. Once the rice reaches the al dente stage turn off the heat, stir in the remaining butter, the cheese, and serve. The wine? More of what went into it.

A note: You can also use white wine to make wine risotto. It will of course be much lighter in color, but still quite good.

How to make risotto, Illustrated