Introduction: Saffron Risotto

The Saffron Risotto ("Risotto allo Zafferano") is one of the most popular recipes of north Italy. The procedure I am going to present here is the basic for almost all kind of Risotto you can do (you just need to replace saffron with something else).

It is not a difficult dish but, as you will see, there are a lot of little rules and tricks to respect to make a great risotto!

You need the following ingredients:

  • one of the following rice: Carnaroli, Arborio, Vialone Nano. Roma it’s fine too (but a bit lower quality).
  • meat broth (done, for instance, with a piece of chicken, a cow bone, carrot, onion, celery, garlic, salt. The following spices are recommended: cloves, juniper berries, laurel). For a quick risotto you can use broth cubes of course.
  • olive oil (extra virgin, of course)
  • an onion
  • a glass of white vine
  • saffron
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • a nut of butter
  • facultative: pepper powder or parsley

The kind of rice is fundamental. Carnaroli is the best for risotto, Vialone Nano is also as good. Only the mentioned kinds are suitable for a real risotto because, with the correct preparation, they release amid, resulting in the characteristic creamy dish.

Step 1: Prepare the Onion "soffritto"

Warm the broth to the boiling point.

In the meantime, finely chop the onion and slightly fry it in hot olive oil in a teflonated pot. NBB the onion should not fry but “slightly fry”, i.e. it should become creamy and gold color. We have a dedicated word in Italian for this (soffritto) which is different from fried (fritto).

Step 2: Roasting the Rice

When the onion "soffritto" is ready, increase the fire, put the rice and roast it for 2 to 4 minutes until it become (kind of) polished. You should always mix it with a wood spoon in this phase. Do not let it to stick to the pot or it will burn.

"Roasting" the rise is a fundamental step. Amid will be better released after that, and the taste will also be different. Skipping this step will lead to a risotto that will taste as just boiled...

Step 3: Adding the Wine and the Broth

Add the white wine. Mix with the spoon until the wine is almost dried/adsorbed and the alchool completely evaporated. This will take typically 1 or 2 minutes).

Add the broth. A big amount at the beginning, less later on. At this point you can let it cook alone (medium fire) mixing it from time to time. As usual, avoid sticking on the pot. At this point total cooking time could be around 12-15 minutes, depending on the rice quality and your taste, but before the rise is ready you have to do the next step.

Step 4: Adding the Saffron

About 8-10 minutes after you add the first broth, you can add the saffron powder. It is better to add it in the middle of the cooking to preserve the organoleptic properties (the heat slowly destroys them). But if you wait till the end, the mixing may result a bit inhomogeneous.


Step 5: Stopping the Fire at the Right Moment

Now the main point is to get the right cooking time. Too little and the rice is crunchy (horrible), but overcooked is also bad. As for the pasta, the risotto must be "al dente". Thus you should stop the fire when the rice stop to be crunchy, even if not completely ready. At this point it should be creamy and a bit too liquid. Add the parmesan cheese and the butter nut, mix well and let it wait for other 4 to 6 minutes in the pot with fire off (the name of this operation is "mantecare", google translate says "whisk").

Step 6: ​Serve in the Dish

Serve in the dish.

Add pepper powder or parsley according to your taste.

The look should be like this picture.

As I said at the beginning, in this recipe I showed some basic rules to do a correct risotto. Instead of saffron, you can add vegetables at the beginning, together with the onion. Try Zucchini, or asparagus, or tomato... or a smashed sausage, for instance. The only limit is your creativity! :-)

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