Making risotto is like therapy in a pan. Slowly stir hot broth into rice until the grains are tender and creamy. A little wine for the pan, a little wine for you. And then you get to eat it. Here is one recipe that’s a favorite – risotto Milanese with saffron and peas. Simply heaven for rice lovers.
Risotto Milanese With Saffron and Peas
I’ve always been crazy about rice, so when I discovered risotto I fell madly in love with this classic Italian dish. For me, it’s the ultimate rice comfort food. Its been twenty years since I made my first risotto with sun-dried tomatoes. Since then, I’ve made many versions, but Risotto Milanese is one we enjoy often. In fact I just made it for dinner at friends house last night, this time topped with seared scallops.
The nice thing about risotto is you can keep the basics in your pantry: rice, onions, garlic, olive oil, wine and broth. All you have to do is choose whether to add vegetables, a little chicken, maybe some chicken sausage. Whatever you have on hand, whatever sounds good. All top Risotto Milanese well. I often add shrimp or scallops which work beautifully. Of course you can serve it simply as a side dish or first course to accompany roast chicken, meat or other dishes.
When making risotto, cook the onion in a little olive oil until soft, add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes until the grains are coated in oil. Next, start slowly adding simmering broth, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Add about 1/2 cup at a time. You will know when to add more broth when you can draw your spoon across the rice and a trough forms. Cook, stirring, until all of the broth is incorporated and the rice is creamy and tender to the bite. Serve in warmed bowls.
Notes on Ingredients
The critical component to risotto is the rice. The special short and medium grained Italian rice varieties used for risotto can be found in many grocery stores and online. It’s the high starch content of these rices that give risotto its creaminess through their ability to slowly absorb lots of broth. The easiest rice to find is Arborio. My favorite is Carnaroli with a firmer texture, high starch content and longer grain. Use what you can find.
Risotto Milanese gets its characteristic golden hue from saffron. One of the most costly and hard to produce spices in the world, the deep reddish-orange threads come from the purple saffron crocus flower. Only three threads, three stigmas per flower, are laboriously harvested by hand then dried. That translates into a spice worth thousands of dollars per pound.
Thankfully saffron can be purchased in small quantities. You can buy it by the gram or half gram. While saffron is a not cheap, a little goes a long way.
Risotto Milanese With Saffron and Peas
- 3 cups chicken broth or stock preferably homemade
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped onion 1/2 medium
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2/3 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup frozen petite peas thawed
- 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place chicken broth in a small saucepan and bring to a bare simmer. Crush the saffron into the pan and allow it to release its flavor and golden color into the broth.
- Place a medium saucepan with sloping sides (easier to stir than a straight sided pan) over medium heat. Heat olive oil then add onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and cook another 60 seconds.
- Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the rice is coated with the oil. Add the wine and cook until it is almost gone. Season with a little salt.
- Begin adding the hot broth about a half a cup at a time, stirring the risotto gently with the wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed. Do again with the next half cup of broth, stirring until almost absorbed. Repeat until all of the broth is incorporated, about 20-25 minutes.