Creamy Saffron Risotto

Risotto alla milanese, the traditional accompaniment to osso buco, is flavored with saffron, which is the world's most expensive spice. The deep-red filaments are the dried stigmas of a variety of crocus and they're harvested exclusively by hand. Each crocus has three stigmas and it takes more than 14,000 to make one ounce of saffron. More Risotto Recipes

Creamy Saffron Risotto
Photo: © James Merrell
Total Time:
40 mins


  • 2 1/2 quarts light chicken stock or low-sodium broth

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 medium onion, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 3 1/4 cups arborio rice (1 pound 10 ounces)

  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Cover and keep hot over low heat.

  2. In a heavy 6-quart pot or casserole, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Crumble in the saffron threads and cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the rice and stir to coat thoroughly with butter, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until evaporated. Add enough hot stock to cover the rice (about 1 1/2 cups) and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to moderate. Cook, stirring the rice constantly, until the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1 1/2 cups at a time, and stirring until it is absorbed before adding more; the risotto is done when the rice is just tender and the liquid is thick, about 25 minutes total.

  3. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese. Season the risotto with salt and pepper and serve.

Make Ahead

The risotto can be prepared through Step 2 (with all but the last 2 cups of stock added) and kept at room temperature for 1 hour. Bring the risotto to a simmer over moderately high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in the reserved 2 cups of stock and cook until the risotto is creamy before proceeding.

Suggested Pairing

This hearty, fragrant risotto pairs well with a crisp, dry white like a Sardinian Vermentino.

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