Legendary Dishes | Risotto alla Milanese (rice with cheese and saffron, Milan-style)


Milan in the 1500s was the centre of rice production in Italy. An irrigation system of canals and locks criss-crossed Piedmont, Lombardy and the Veneto, covering the length of the Po Valley from the alps to the Adriatic. Now the rice varieties known as arborio, baldo, carnaroli and vialone nano are grown for the purpose of making a fabulous range of creamy risotto dishes. One more than any other has come to symbolise the rice of the Po Valley – Risotto alla Milanese.

Risotto alla Milanese is also made with beef stock, bone marrow, butter and white wine, the marrow being added with the onions, the white wine to deglaze and the butter as a finish. A third version has Marsala wine. Pancetta can replace the marrow.

  • 1.5 litres chicken stock, heated
  • 350 g vialone nano rice
  • 150 g onions, chopped
  • 100 g parmigiano, grated
  • 20 saffron filaments, ground, soaked in 100 ml of hot stock

Saute onions in butter in a deep, wide frying pan over a low heat, about ten minutes.

Coat and toast the rice in the butter and onions.

Increase heat to medium, coat and toast rice in the butter and onions, add a ladleful of broth.

When the rice absorbs the liquid, add more stock and continue for ten minutes, then add the saffron-infused stock.

Add more stock, cook until rice is al dente, a further seven minutes.

Dress with cheese, cover and leave to rest for ten minutes.