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Risotto allo Zaffernano

by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

Since my dear friend Elizabeth Gracen (I am the one who coined her nickname "Flapper") is a risotto fanatic, I thought I would add another very famous traditional recipe from the North of Italy in Milano, the Lombardy region. It is the delicious “Risotto allo Zafferano”—a delicate saffron risotto.

Zafferano is Italian for "saffron." L’Aquila saffron is from the Abruzzo region and is considered a rare spice—very potent, known locally as "Red Gold." But saffron is also cultivated in several regions of Italy, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Sardinia, Emilia, and, of course, Lombardy, where Risotto allo Zaffernano is one of their staple dishes.

This risotto is very good (maybe even better) the day after you make it—if you actually have anything left over! Roasting in a pan the following day gives the risotto a golden, delicious, crusty surface. Delicioso!

Fun fact: this particular sauté risotto was served over a century ago at La Scala Theatre, in Milano, between the first and second part of a concert or a play.


Risotto allo Zafferano


1 small white onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of olive oil

1 glass of white wine

4 cups of vegetable stock

Grated parmesan

A dollop of butter

A dash of saffron

Salt & pepper

Heat the vegetable broth over low heat. Make sure you place the broth near the pot where you’ll make risotto.

Make a "soffritto" by sautéing the chopped onions in oil in a large pot.

Add the rice and stir with the onions until the rice looks like glass. This step, the toasting or “tostatura of the rice,” is the most important part of the recipe. It creates a shell around the rice kernel that allows it to slowly absorb the cooking liquid without making the dish too soggy.

Add the white wine and let it evaporate.

Once the wine has evaporated, add the broth, one ladle at a time over a low fire. Allow each addition of broth to evaporate before adding another ladle. Stir occasionally.

Start tasting the rice after about 12 minutes of cooking time. When the rice is almost done, Soak the saffron in a coffee cup with hot water for 1 minute, and then add it to the risotto, stirring well until all the risotto has a golden color.

Cook until the rice is “al dente,” with a little bit of resistance when you bite it. It shouldn't be hard, nor should it be mushy.

When the risotto is ready, remove from the heat and stir in a dollop of butter and grated parmesan.

Let the risotto sit for 3 minutes, covered, and then serve.

If you want to try “Risotto allo Zafferano al Salto,” wait for one day, or use the leftovers. To prepare, drizzle a bit of olive oil into a sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add a ladle of saffron risotto and flatten it with a wooden spoon. Wait for 5 minutes and turn it on the other side. Let it cook until crispy and serve.

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