Traditional parmesan risotto with saffron is one of my favorite dishes, extremely simple in taste yet so delicious. Here in northern Italy it is considered a staple, a real comfort food that every cook should know how to make. The richness and creaminess of this dish is just amazing, and its bright yellow color brings joy just to look at it!
Here I want to share with you the most traditional of every Italian risotto, the real classic of classics. This recipe originates in Milan and historically it is served together with slow-cooked veal shank slices. Nowadays however, it is more commonly eaten as a main dish.
Nevertheless, as making this dish is more a technique than a recipe, it lends itself well to endless variations. For instance, you could boost the earthy flavor of this traditional saffron parmesan risotto just by adding a handful of dried mushrooms and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
Unfortunately, the catch to this dish is that it does require attention. The real secret to a good risotto in fact, is just to be patient and add the broth one ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed and stirring the rice before adding some more. I know this might sound time-consuming, but in reality, it won’t take you more than 20 minutes and once you taste the final result, you will definitely know it was completely worth it.
Finally, here are a few key suggestions to make your risotto perfect every time. First, warm up your broth. As cool broth takes longer to get to temperature, it might shock the grains and impact the creaminess of the dish. Second, stir frequently while cooking or your risotto will stick to the pan. Finally, remember to turn off the heat before adding and mixing in the cheese. This last step is called mantecare and is what makes risotto so tasty and creamy.
Italian Parmesan Risotto with Saffron
- 4 cups beef broth (you can use vegetable broth if you are a vegetarian)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup risotto rice (Carnaroli, Arborio or Vialone nano)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 pinch saffron powder (1 sachet) or ½ teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 Tablespoons of warm water
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Sea salt, to taste
- Put broth into a small pan and bring it to a light simmer.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet/saucepan, add olive oil and onions. Sauté the onions for a few minutes on medium-low heat, until they turn translucent.
- Add rice to the saucepan. Stir for 30 seconds to coat the grains with oil and then deglaze with white wine
- When the wine is absorbed, start adding the broth to the rice, one ladleful at a time.
- Continue to add the broth and stir the rice every one or two minutes until it’s cooked through. This whole process should last around 20 minutes.
- When the rice is ready, turn off the heat and add saffron (with soaking water if soaking), Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.
- Mix everything together with a fast motion. The residual heat will melt the cheese creating a rich and creamy consistency. Serve immediately.
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