Risotto Milanese



by Cat, Nov 2007 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Basic Risotto; 2. Sides & Condiments Menu3. White Rice; 4Brown Rice;

Risotto is a creamy and slightly chewy, nearly orgasmic rice dish, and Risotto Milanese – flavored with saffron – is perhaps the most well-known. The key to perfect risotto is to use the right type of rice (Arborio is best), and cook it slowly, adding a little bit of water at a time to generate that wonderful creamy texture.

Risotto Milanese

This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas, and serves 6.  The texture should be tender and creamy, but not mushy.  If you are patient and add all the liquid in small increments, you will be rewarded with a properly creamy risotto.  If you lose patience and add the last half of the liquid all at once and then simmer, the result will not be as creamy.

This version uses whiteArborio rice; if you use brown Arborio, presoak it first (see Pre-Soaking Brown Rice for details); you may also need more broth/water, and longer cooking time.

The Marsala wine and saffron give this dish its distinctive flavor.  However, it’s also excellent with a dry white wine such as vermouth, or with brandy instead of the Marsala.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 3 Tbsp butter (or 1 ½ Tbsp butter and 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (or other pearl-grain rice)
  • ½ cup marsala wine (vermouth or brandy could also be used)
  • 5 – 6 cups chicken bone broth of mineral vegetable broth (such as potato peel broth), with garlic, heated
  • ¼ to ½ tsp saffron threads
  • Unrefined sea salt, to taste
  • fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiana or Asiago cheese
  • 1 Tbsp butter, or more
  • Equipment:
  • 3 quart saucier or heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, with lid


These instructions are for using white Arborio rice. If you use brown Arborio, presoak it overnight (see Brown Rice for instructions on presoaking). You may also need more broth and more cooking time.

  1. Heat butter (or butter and oil) in saucier or Dutch oven, add chopped onion, and saute until translucent, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the rice and stir it around to coat all the grains with the butter/oil. Ensuring all are coated is essential for success of this dish.
  3. Stir in the wine and saffron.
  4. Slow method: Add hot broth, ¼ cup at a time, while stirring, allowing all the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next addition, but do not let the rice scorch.  Season with salt and pepper toward the end of the additions.  Check for doneness.  If all the liquid has been absorbed and it is still not as tender and creamy as you would like, add a bit more hot water, cover pan, lower heat to simmer and cook for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Check again for texture.
  5. Faster Method: If you lose patience, you can add the first 2 ½ – 3 cups in ¼ cup batches, and then the remainder all at once, stirring well, but the end result will not be as creamy.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the pan tightly, and lower the heat to a simmer.  After 10 minutes have passed, check to see if it is done.
  6. Whichever method you use, some recipes recommend that not all the liquid should be absorbed, as the rice will continue to absorb some liquid after it is removed from the heat; by the time it is served, it will be just right.
  7. The Parmigiana and butter can be stirred in after the risotto is removed from the heat; or you can serve with Parmigiana and butter, passed separately.


  1. The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas (see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book).

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