Creamy Risotto alla Milanese Recipe (saffron risotto)

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The creamy, flavorful nature of risotto makes it a classic Italian comfort food, satisfying both the palate and the soul. Risotto alla Milanese gives warmth and richness, making it super cozy, especially in colder seasons.

This is a family recipe for risotto alla Milanese. Enjoy as a main entree or side dish with traditional osso buco!

risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top. close up with fork taking a bite.
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Best Risotto alla Milanese (Easy!)

Creating Italian risotto might seem challenging, but with the correct ingredients and authentic Italian method, it becomes an easily mastered dish that’s truly rewarding and comforting. This saffron risotto is beautiful and a true Milanese favorite!

The key is to employ warm stock, adding it gradually. Stir, but not too much, and don’t cook for more than 20 minutes. That’s all! It is an impressive creamy rice dish that you can make at home.

risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top. close up with fork taking a bite.

Classic Ingredients

This classic dish combines a few simple ingredients and a tiny bit of saffron to achieve the yellow rice color. This is all you need for a true risotto alla Milanese.

ingredient shot
  • Arborio Rice: A short-grain Italian rice variety known for its high starch content, contributing to the creamy texture of the risotto. It’s the best risotto rice.
  • Chicken Stock: A flavorful broth made by simmering chicken bones, vegetables, and seasonings, providing a savory base for the risotto.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: A high-quality, cold-pressed oil that adds a fruity and robust flavor to the dish while enhancing the overall richness.
  • Onion: Finely chopped onion adds aromatic sweetness and depth to the risotto as it cooks.
  • Kosher Salt: A coarse-grain salt used to season the risotto, enhancing the natural flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper: Adds a hint of spiciness and complements the dish with its bold, aromatic flavor.
photo of the saffron
  • Saffron Threads: A precious spice that imparts a distinctive golden color to the risotto and contributes a subtle, floral flavor. A pinch of saffron goes a long way.
  • Dry White Wine: Adds acidity and depth to the dish, enhancing the overall flavor profile of the risotto.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese: A high-quality, aged Parmesan cheese with a rich, nutty flavor that brings a deep umami taste to the risotto.
  • Unsalted Butter: Adds a luxurious and creamy finish to the risotto, enhancing its overall richness and mouthfeel.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to make Risotto alla Milanese (step-by-step photos)

The cooking technique involves slowly adding warm liquid to the rice, allowing it to release starch and create a creamy consistency. This results in a rich, velvety texture that is highly satisfying.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: adding the saffron to water.

In a small bowl, combine the white wine and saffron threads, stir, and let sit until ready to use. The saffron gives the dish its characteristic yellow color and a subtle flavor.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: sautéing the onions in olive oil in a cast iron pot.

Warm the Chicken Stock: In a medium saucepan, warm the chicken stock over low heat. You want to keep it warm throughout the cooking process.
Sauté the Onion: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: sautéing the rice in the pot with wooden spoon.


Toast the Rice: Add the arborio rice to the pot with the sautéed onions. Cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: adding the saffron to the risotto.

Deglaze with wine: Pour the dry white saffron mixture, stirring constantly until the rice mostly absorbs the wine.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: mixing the saffron with the rice.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: adding the hot broth to the risotto.

Start Adding Stock: Begin adding the hot stock, one ladle at a time, to the rice. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon and allow the liquid to absorb before adding more. Stir in a circular motion all the way to the bottom of the pan. 

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: stirring broth and risotto until cooked.

Continue Cooking: Continue adding stock and stirring for about 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is creamy and cooked to al dente. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper as needed.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: adding the cheese and butter to the risotto.

Finish with Parmigiano and Butter: Remove the pot from heat and stir in the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and unsalted butter.

Mix until the cheese and butter are fully incorporated and the risotto is creamy.

How to make risotto alla milanese step-by-step: stir in the cheese and butter to combine.

Serve Immediately: Risotto is best served immediately while it’s creamy and hot. Garnish with additional Parmesan if desired.

risotto in pot with wooden spoon in it.

Substitutions

While Risotto alla Milanese traditionally features specific ingredients for its distinctive flavor and texture, there are some substitutions you can consider based on dietary preferences or ingredient availability:

  • Arborio Rice Alternatives:
    • Substitute with Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice, both suitable for creamy risottos.
  • Chicken Stock Substitutes:
    • Vegetable stock or mushroom stock can be used as a vegetarian alternative.
    • If using store-bought stock, choose a high-quality, low-sodium option.
  • Saffron Substitutes:
    • Turmeric can provide a similar golden color, but use it sparingly as it has a more intense flavor.
  • Dry White Wine Substitutes:
    • Use dry vermouth or a non-alcoholic white wine as a substitute for dry white wine.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Alternatives:
    • Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano can be alternatives for a similar aged, complex cheese flavor.
risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top.

Variations

If you like this risotto Milanese- you will also love my asparagus risotto, mushroom risotto, butternut squash risotto, and simple parmesan rice.

risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top. close up with fork taking a bite.

Equipment

How to Store and Reheat Risotto

To store leftover risotto, allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate within two hours of cooking. Properly stored, keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

To reheat, place the desired amount in a saucepan and add a splash of broth or water to restore moisture. Gently heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Alternatively, you can reheat individual portions in the microwave, covering them to retain moisture and stirring halfway through.

Top tips for best results

  • Homemade Chicken Stock: Whenever possible, use homemade chicken stock. Its rich flavor enhances the overall depth of the dish. If store-bought, choose a high-quality, low-sodium option.
  • Patience is Key: Risotto requires patience. Allow the rice to absorb the liquid gradually, stirring frequently. This slow-cooking process is essential for achieving the desired creamy consistency.
  • Warm Stock: Use warm chicken stock throughout the cooking process. Adding cold stock can hinder the rice’s cooking, affecting the overall texture of the risotto.
  • Don’t Rush the Wine: When deglazing with wine, let it cook down before adding the stock. This ensures the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind the wine’s flavors without overpowering the dish.
  • Infuse Saffron Early: Infuse saffron threads in warm stock early on to allow their flavor to permeate the entire dish. This contributes to the characteristic color and subtle taste of Risotto alla Milanese.
  • Stirring Technique: Stir frequently but avoid constant stirring. Stirring releases the rice’s starch, creating a creamy texture, but over-stirring can lead to a gummy consistency.
  • Timing Matters: Risotto should be cooked to al dente, with a slight bite to the rice. Avoid overcooking, as this can result in mushy risotto. The process usually takes around 18-20 minutes.
  • Finish with Butter and Cheese: Stirring in unsalted butter and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese at the end adds a final layer of richness and flavor. These ingredients should be added off the heat to maintain their integrity.
risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top. close up photo.

FAQs

How do I prevent my risotto from becoming too mushy?

Avoid overcooking the rice and stirring excessively. Risotto should be al dente, with a slight bite. Stirring should be frequent but not constant to allow the rice to release starch gradually.

Why is risotto alla Milanese yellow?

Risotto alla Milanese is yellow due to the inclusion of saffron, a spice that not only imparts a vibrant color but also contributes a subtle and distinctive flavor to the dish.

Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:

What to Serve with risotto

Here is an entire blog post for what to serve with risotto!

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risotto all milanese on a white plate with parmigiano on top. close up with fork taking a bite.

Best Risotto Alla Milanese

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5 from 2 reviews

The creamy, flavorful nature of risotto makes it a classic Italian comfort food, satisfying both the palate and the soul. Risotto alla Milanese gives warmth and richness making it super cozy, especially in colder seasons.

  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 6 cups chicken stock, homemade chicken both, or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon saffron threads (quantity based on preference)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more for topping
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the white wine and saffron threads, stir, and let sit until ready to use. The saffron gives the dish its characteristic yellow color and a subtle flavor.
  2. Warm the Chicken Stock: In a medium saucepan, warm the chicken stock over low heat. You want to keep it warm throughout the cooking process.
  3. Sauté the Onion: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Toast the Rice: Add the arborio rice to the pot with the sautéed onions. Cook, stirring, until the rice is lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Deglaze with wine: Pour the dry white saffron mixture, stirring constantly until the rice mostly absorbs the wine.
  6. Start Adding Stock: Begin adding the hot stock, one ladle at a time, to the rice. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon and allow the liquid to absorb before adding more. Stir in a circular motion all the way to the bottom of the pan. 
  7. Continue Cooking: Continue adding stock and stirring for about 18-20 minutes, or until the rice is creamy and cooked to al dente. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper as needed.
  8. Finish with Parmigiano and Butter: Remove the pot from heat and stir in the freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and unsalted butter. Mix until the cheese and butter are fully incorporated, and the risotto is creamy.
  9. Serve Immediately: Risotto is best served immediately while it’s creamy and hot. Garnish with additional Parmesan if desired.
  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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