Rice Milan styleThe word "Risotto" derives from a latin word "Risus Optimus" generally indicating a not very liquid type of soup with various flavourings. Nevertheless, this definition appears to be reductive for Risotto with Saffron, taking into consideration that this risotto for the Milan citizens is the one that excels all. Infact, other recipes are only a variant from the original.

In 1574, a legend narrates that a worker of a glass craftsman, with the task to complete the glass window of Saint Elena, added Saffron to compose the yellow for the frescos. By chance, one day, he added some saffron also to the pale white risotto he was eating. The result was surprising in terms of flavour and aroma. Once this rumour spread, the rice grains enhanced by the new spice, became the most diffused dish in the City of Milan.

The recipe of the Milanese Risotto was published in 1809. However, the recipe considered authentic for the traditional Milanese dish is described in the Milanese Family Almanac dated 1932, in which it is recommended, as distinctive element, with regard to other preparations, the technical cooking particularity, that foresees to pour the broth on to the rice and not viceversa.

Ingredients for 4 persons

  • 300g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 60g Butter
  • 50g Ox bone marrow
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 glass of white or red wine
  • 50g grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 or 2 sachets of Saffron in powder or 8 to 10 stigmas


Melt the butter at medium temperature in a pan, preferably made of steel with a copper base, in order to avoid that the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once the rice has been added, stir with a wooden spoon to favour the absorbment of the ingredients and complete, the slight browning of the rice.

Prepare, separately, a beef broth with the addition of sliced onions. The said onions must be previously finely sliced and fried at a low temperature in butter and bone marrow or in olive oil for a lighter version. The onions should be salted, immediately after frying, as the salt retains the water and therefore makes the onions softer. Subsequently, they must be added to the rice.

The "Risotto" must be cooked at medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. After browning the rice, add the wine and leave it to vapour. Then the boiling broth must be added, stir for a few minutes. Once the broth has been absorbed, a few minutes before the rice is cooked, add the Saffron, which has been dissolved in a cup of broth. Finally, to blend, add a small piece of butter and grated Parmisan cheese.

The dish should be accompanied by classic white wines or smooth tasting red wines with little Tannic, so as not to accentuate the bitterish taste of the Saffron itself.