Risotto Alla Milanese

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"Risotto. A dish of creamy cooked rice that has absorbed a good quantity of broth to make it flavorful and tender...The most famous risotto is made "alla milanese," from Milan. It is flavored with saffron and contains beef marrow. Legend has it that the dish dates to 1574, when a stained-glass worker on Milan's cathedral, who was known for the yellow color of his glass, which he achieved by adding saffron to his pigments, colored the rice at the wedding of his boss's daughter, whereupon the guests pronounced the dish "Risus optimus" (Latin for "excellent rice"). Thereafter such yellow-tinted rice was called risotto all milanese."
---Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, John Mariani [Broadway Books:New York] 1998 (p. 218-9)

Excerpted from Food Timeline

Risotto Milanese with osso buco, on a plate.Risotto Alla Milanese With Osso Buco

Sweating onions for the risotto.

Sweating onions for risotto alla Milanese.

The rice, wine, and saffron in a pot.

Add the rice, toast, add the wine and saffron. Cook until the wine has absorbed into the rice. Continue adding stock, in additions until the rice is done.

You can clearly see the saffron threads in the rice.

Risotto Milanese with osso buco Milanese and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Risotto alla Milanese with osso buco Milanese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Risotto Alla Milanese


  • Wooden spoon

  • Yield: 2 servings
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: varies, about 25 minutes


  • Extra virgin olive oil, to coat
  • 1/2 small onion, fine dice
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • white wine, to cover rice
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 4 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated


  1. When you are cutting onions for risotto the dice must be as small or smaller than the grains of rice.
  2. Lightly coat the bottom of a 4 to 6 quart pot with olive oil. Add the onions and set over a medium-low flame. Sweat until the onions are translucent, but not browned. Add the rice all at once and toast until the grains are slightly too hot to handle. You need to stir them around the pot with the wooden spoon. After a couple minutes, pick some of the grains up and hold them in your palm. Keep testing the rice until it becomes just slightly too hot to handle.
  3. When the rice is toasted, add enough white wine to come up about three quarters of the level of the rice. Add the saffron to the rice. Stir to thoroughly moisten the rice and increase the heat to medium. Continue stirring the rice until the liquid has absorbed.
  4. Using a 4-ounce ladle add one ladle of stock to the rice. Stir and cook until all of the liquid has absorbed. Repeat this process a second time. After the second addition has absorbed taste one of the grains. It will be soft but with a definite crunch to it. Keep adding stock a ladle at a time, cooking until the liquid is absorbed, and tasting a couple grains.
  5. The rice is done when it no longer has that hard resistance. It should, however, still have definite texture to the grain, or al dente.
  6. Add the butter and a large handful of Parmigiano. Stir vigorously with the wooden spoon until the butter and cheese have melted and are thoroughly incorporated. Taste the risotto and add more cheese as needed.
  7. Portion risotto into 4 warmed serving plates and top with the osso buco, see recipe
  8. Serve with extra cheese.

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