This creamy Saffron Risotto is so delicious and cozy, it will transport you straight to Italy! The traditional name is Risotto alla Milanese, and I’m going to show you how easy it is to make this classic Italian dish at home to impress everyone!
If you haven't tried Saffron Risotto before, you’re in for a treat! It's a luscious creamy risotto which has been infused with saffron which creates a lovely aroma, color and flavor. Now I know that saffron is quite expensive, but don't worry…whilst it looks super rich, you only need to use a small amount of saffron to create this amazing dish and I’ll show you how to get the most out of the saffron!
It's also quite an easy risotto to cook as you only need a handful of ingredients and its cooked in 30 minutes. If you love risotto as much as I do, then you must also try my mushroom and pea risotto.
I first tasted this saffron risotto when I visited Milan last month. Risotto alla Milanese is one of the most traditional dishes from the Lombardy region of northern Italy, that you would find on almost every menu! Since I have a Persian heritage, this dish screamed at me, as we use saffron in most Persian recipes, so I felt right at home! My Italian husband and I say that it's a dish that combines both of our cultures, so it's quickly become a household favorite 🙂
In Milan, risotto Milanese is typically served with Osso Buco which is a stewed meat dish served with bone marrow. However, as I don't eat meat, I love to serve it with fish, shrimp, crispy tofu or legumes to keep it vegetarian. I must add that saffron risotto is typically made with butter, however I choose to use olive oil instead.
It's really a versatile dish you can enjoy on the side of your favorite protein and vegetables, that I guarantee will be a hit!
Table of Contents
Why you'll love this recipe
- Authentic Italian recipe: Go on a journey to Milan and enjoy the authentic taste of Risotto alla Milanese in your own kitchen
- Easy peasy: With only a handful of ingredients and made in 30 minutes, its simple and easy to cook
- Delicious: A comforting dish with a burst of color and flavor making you want more with every spoon!
- Versatile: Easily customizable and perfect to serve on the side of your favorite protein for an easy weeknight dish or a dinner to impress your guests
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Saffron is of course the star of the show, bringing the lovely aroma, color and flavor. Now whilst saffron threads are quite expensive, you only need a small amount if you infuse them correctly to get the most out of it as per my below recipe
I buy my saffron from Persian supermarkets but you can also find them at Middle Eastern grocers and some general supermarkets
- Arborio rice is a short-grain rice specifically to make risotto, as it's starchy and becomes nice and creamy when cooked correctly. Carnaroli rice is also a popular rice for risotto you can use. The rice grains look a little longer and thinner
- Parmigiano Reggiano aka parmesan cheese, adds creaminess, saltines and a nutty cheesy flavor. I always suggest buying a block of good quality parmesan cheese and grating it yourself. Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano will work too
- Vegetable broth (vegetable stock) is my preferred broth to use as I'm mostly vegetarian. However it's quite popular to use chicken stock or even beef stock. Good quality broth will ensure the best tasting risotto
- Dry white wine adds depth and acidity to the risotto. Now whilst most of the alcohol is cooked off, if you prefer to keep it alcohol free, substitute with broth and a squeeze of lemon juice for a little acidity
- Extra virgin olive oil is my preference to use when sautéing the onion and also for the final stage before serving. It makes it extra creamy and silky, however in traditional saffron risotto, butter is actually used. You can use either depending on your preference
- White onion is the base of the risotto and I find it sweeter and more mellow than yellow onion. Yellow onion can be used as a substitute if needed or better yet shallots
How to make Saffron Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese)
You make this delicious creamy Saffron Risotto in no time at all using minimal ingredients. Follow these simple steps below.
- Grind saffron threads to a powder, using a mortar and pestle or small blender
- Add ¼ teaspoon of the powder in a small glass with 3 tablespoons of boiling water. Set aside to infuse
Make Saffron Risotto
- Sauté finely diced onion with olive oil on a low heat. At the same time, heat broth in a separate pot
- When onions are translucent, add arborio rice and toast for a few minutes
- Increase to medium heat and pour in white wine and stir through
- When wine has evaporated, add 2 ladles of the heated vegetable broth, a good pinch of salt and stir. Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, continue to add one ladle of broth in at a time, continuously stirring to cook the rice through
- Repeat to add one ladle at a time and stir in, until you have reached half way through the broth. Then add the infused saffron water and stir through
- Continue adding the broth one ladle at a time and taste for readiness. Once it’s almost cooked, add grated parmesan cheese and continuously stir to create a creamy consistency. Only add broth if required (it should be silky and still slightly wet, not dry or mushy)
Tips and Tricks
- Grind the saffron threads into a powder then infuse in boiling water. This way, you get the most out of it without any wastage
- Always heat the vegetable broth before cooking with it. If you use cold broth, it will take much longer to cook as you are continuously changing the cooking temperature of the rice
- Add the broth slowly, one ladle at a time and continuously stir which creates the perfect consistency
- Finely grate parmesan cheese so it doesn't become clumpy or thick when added to the risotto
- Taste, taste, taste! Don't overcook the risotto! You want a silky and creamy consistency, not dry or mushy so taste as you go
Storage, Reheating and Freezing
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days
- For best results, reheat on the stove with a touch of broth or water to revive its creamy texture. You can reheat in the microwave, but the texture will become a little dry and not as creamy
- While saffron risotto is best eaten fresh, you can freeze it in an airtight container for up to a month, although the texture may slightly change upon thawing
Saffron risotto also known as Risotto alla Milanese, is a traditional dish from the Lombardy region in northern Italy. Its a simple risotto infused with saffron with a golden rich aroma, color and flavor
Saffron is made using a base of arborio rice, broth, infused saffron threads, white wine and parmesan cheese. Its simple with only a handful of ingredients and absolutely delicious!
The secret to making the perfect risotto is to add the hot broth one ladle at a time, continuously stirring to ensure it cooks correctly and results in a creamy consistency. Add parmesan cheese right at the end and ensure not to overcook it
In Milan, saffron risotto is typically served with osso buco or cotoletta Milanese. You can also serve with fish, shrimp and other seafood, breaded tofu or legumes and vegetables such as peas and asparagus to keep it vegetarian
More Rice Recipes
- Mushroom and Pea Risotto
- Persian Rice with Crispy Tahdig
- Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice
- Sabzi Polo (Persian Herb Rice)
- Lubia Polo (Persian Green Bean Rice)
More Italian Recipes
- Tuscan White Bean Soup
- Spinach Ricotta Lasagna
- No Knead Focaccia
- Italian Zucchini Fritters
- Italian Tomato Sauce (Sugo)
- Tiramisu Cups
- Italian Pizza
I love seeing your creations and remakes, so be sure to rate the recipe, comment and share your Saffron Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese) photo on Instagram so I can share the love!
Creamy Saffron Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese)
- Good pinch of saffron threads or ¼ teaspoon saffron powder
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- ½ white onion
- ½ cup white wine
- 6 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
- 2oz / 50g finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Grind the saffron threads using a mortar and pestle or a small blender to create a rough powder consistencyAdd ¼ teaspoon of the powder into a small glass or ramekin with 3 tablespoons of boiling water and allow it to infuse on the side
- Finely dice the onion and saute in a large saucepan with olive oil over a low heatAt the same time, heat the broth in a separate pot over the stove top
- Once the onions are translucent, add the arborio rice and toast the rice for a few minutes
- Increase to medium heat, pour in the white wine and stir through. Once most of it has evaporated, add 2 ladles of the hot broth and a good pinch of salt and stir
- When most of the liquid has been absorbed, continue to add one ladle of broth in at a time, continuously stirring to cook the rice through
- Repeat the previous step until you have reached half way through the broth. Then add the infused saffron water and stir through the risotto to create the lovely yellow color
- Continue to add the broth in one ladle at a time and ensure you taste the rice as you go. Once it's almost cooked, add the finely grated parmesan cheese and continuously stir for a few minutes to create a creamy consistency, adding the broth as needed
- When the risotto has reached your desired texture (note, it should be silky and still slightly wet, not dry or mushy), drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and serve up your delicious Saffron Risotto!