30-Minute Saffron Risotto
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Whip up this quick and easy saffron risotto recipe in just over 30 minutes with only a handful of ingredients! Enjoy it on its own, topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, or as a side dish with an equally as stunning main dish such as baked lobster tails or filet mignon.
Table of Contents
- Why you’ll love this recipe:
- What is risotto alla milanese?
- Ingredients Notes:
- How to make this risotto recipe:
- Tips for Success:
- Storing Tips:
- Saffron Risotto FAQs:
- More Savory Side Dish Recipes:
- Saffron Risotto Recipe
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Why you’ll love this recipe:
Risotto has a reputation for being a challenging side dish, but it’s actually quite simple to make!
Yes, it requires hands-on time and lots of stirring, but it’s still just a 30-minute recipe with easy-to-follow instructions.
- Vibrant– Saffron strands transform the color of plain white rice into a gorgeous yellowish-orange hue, making this saffron risotto recipe a true show-stopper!
- Flavor – The complex combination of sweet and earthy flavors in saffron combined with butter, garlic, and white wine make this risotto absolutely irresistible!
- Texture – Risotto feels like a total indulgence with its creamy, smooth, and buttery-rich consistency.
If you want a hands-off risotto recipe, try my instant pot mushroom risotto, too!
What is risotto alla milanese?
Saffron risotto is also known as risotto alla milanese, a classic Italian dish that originated in the mid-1800s in northern Italy. It’s a savory, saffron-infused creamy rice dish cooked in beef or chicken stock.
- Chicken stock – This is a rich and indulgent recipe. So, be sure to choose chicken stock over chicken broth as stock is more concentrated with a greater depth of flavor.
- Unsalted butter – Opting for unsalted butter gives you more control over the amount of added salt. Keeping the butter cold helps with the creamy consistency.
- Shallot – Shallots have a milder, more delicate flavor than white onions. Use a Vidalia onion instead if you can’t find them in the grocery store.
- Garlic – Fresh garlic cloves add a savory flavor.
- Kosher salt – Start with one teaspoon, and add more to taste if needed.
- Arborio rice – This is a type of starchy, short-grain, white rice that cooks into a luxuriously creamy texture. It’s a key ingredient in all classic risotto recipes and should not be substituted with other rice varieties!
- White wine – Opt for dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or Chardonnay.
- Saffron threads – You only need a pinch of this delicate, subtly flavored herb. A little bit goes a long way, as it quickly becomes bitter-tasting when overused. It’s best to purchase saffron from reputable online dealers in its whole thread form (not ground), as counterfeit saffron is common due to its high cost.
- Parmesan cheese – Adds umami flavor and makes the risotto extra creamy. It’s crucial that you finely grate the parmesan yourself. Store-bought grated cheese has anti-caking agents, meaning it doesn’t melt as well.
- Fresh basil – This is an optional ingredient, but I recommend adding it! Basil adds a pop of color to the finished dish and a more authentic Italian flavor.
How to make this risotto recipe:
It’s best to serve risotto immediately. So, make sure you plan accordingly if you’re also making a main dish to pair with it!
1. Heat the stock
- Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat. The chicken stock needs to be hot to the touch but should not come up to a simmer. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain the temperature of the stock.
2. Sauté the shallot & rice
- While the stock is warming, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat.
- Add the shallot and kosher salt to the pan, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the minced garlic, and cook for an additional minute.
- Increase the heat to medium, and add the arborio rice to the butter, onion, and garlic mixture.
- Cook the rice for about 2 minutes or until it turns slightly translucent but is not toasted.
3. Add the liquids
- Add the wine, and stir continuously for about 3 minutes or until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is mostly dry.
- Add the saffron and 1 cup of hot chicken stock. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and stir the mixture occasionally to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Add another cup of hot stock once the rice looks almost dry. Repeat the process of adding stock, stirring occasionally, and maintaining a gentle simmer.
- Cook the rice for 15-20 minutes.
Test for doneness
The risotto is done when it reaches a tender and creamy consistency, with most of the liquid absorbed. It’s okay if you have some chicken stock left over. Just make sure you use at least 4 cups.
4. Add butter & parmesan cheese
- Remove the saffron risotto from the heat, and stir in the rest of the cold butter, freshly grated parmesan, and fresh basil (if using).
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Tips for Success:
- Don’t wash the arborio rice. Washing rice rinses off some of the starch. When making risotto, we want all of that starch. More starch means more creamy goodness!
- Cook the risotto in a large, shallow pan. This ensures even cooking and will speed up the time it takes for the liquid to absorb into the rice.
- Never increase the heat to high when making risotto. Trying to speed up the process is tempting, but trust me on this one! Risotto needs to be cooked slowly at a low temperature. Patience is the key to perfect risotto!
- Be patient with your saffron. While the rice is cooking, the saffron will bloom, making it increasingly more vibrant as time goes on. Your risotto will have a beautiful, golden-orange hue when the dish is finished.
- Don’t over-stir the rice. Stirring too much or too vigorously can make the rice gluey.
- Risotto is always best when it’s eaten fresh. As risotto cools down, it becomes thick and a little dry, losing its signature creamy, smooth texture.
- Leftovers shouldn’t go to waste, though! Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. A splash of chicken stock added to the risotto while reheating will help it loosen back up.
- It is not recommended to freeze risotto.
Saffron Risotto FAQs:
Saffron risotto is commonly served as a side dish alongside a savory roast, grilled steak, or seafood. Since risotto requires a lot of hands-on time, I recommend serving it with hands-off dinner recipes, such as rack of lamb, perfect roast chicken, or prime rib.
All classic risotto recipes contain chicken stock, butter, arborio rice, white wine, parmesan cheese, and aromatics. The star ingredient in saffron risotto is high-quality, pure saffron threads. Traditional saffron risotto recipes also include beef bone marrow.
When used sparingly, saffron is slightly sweet with a floral aroma. However, most recipes only call for a small amount of saffron, because it quickly becomes bitter-tasting when too much is used.
More Savory Side Dish Recipes:
- 4-6 cups chicken stock
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and divided
- 1 medium shallot finely diced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or more to taste
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice
- 1 cup dry white wine Note 1
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads Note 2
- 1 ¼ cups finely grated parmesan plus more for serving, Note 3
- ¼ cup basil finely chopped for serving if using
- Heat chicken stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat, make sure to keep it hot but not simmering.4-6 cups chicken stock
- Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add shallot, season with salt, and cook until soft and translucent for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 medium shallot, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 2 cloves garlic
- Turn the heat to medium. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat in butter. Cook until rice turns slightly translucent but not toasted, 2 minutes. Add wine and stir until liquid is fully absorbed and the rice is mostly dry, about 3 minutes.1 ½ cups arborio rice, 1 cup dry white wine
- Add saffron and a cup of hot stock. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and stir every so often to incorporate the liquid and keep the rice from sticking to the pan (don’t over-stir or it can make the rice gluey). When the rice looks almost dry, add another cup of hot stock. Repeat the process, stirring often and maintaining a gentle simmer, until rice is tender but al dente and liquid is mostly absorbed (you may not need all of the stock but you’ll use at least 4 cups), cook for about 15-20 minutes.1 teaspoon saffron threads
- Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of cold butter, freshly grated parmesan cheese and basil, check for salt and adjust to your liking.1 ¼ cups finely grated parmesan, ¼ cup basil
- Divide risotto into serving bowls and top with extra cheese and fresh basil, if using. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Tips & Notes
– Saffron risotto is best served right away.
– Once cooled, leftovers can be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.
– This recipe does not freeze well!