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Italian Saffron Risotto

italian saffron risotto


What is saffron risotto and where it came from?

If you think about Italy, the first things that may come to your mind regarding Italian cuisine are pasta and pizza. Or maybe in a different order, pizza and pasta. But you could be surprised that, from all the specialties that Italian cuisine has to offer, risotto is one of the most famous. 

Risotto is a typical first course of Italian cuisine, originally from Lombardy, and then spread throughout northern Italy and today in numerous versions throughout the country.

In this post, we share the recipe to prepare one of the most famous Italian risotto: saffron risotto!

Saffron risotto typical recipe of the Lombard tradition, often confused with Milanese risotto. It is often mistakenly associated due to the similarity in saffron color, but Milanese risotto ha also beef marrow as an ingredient.

It is an easy risotto to prepare that enhances the aromatic qualities of saffron to the fullest. Thanks to the strong coloring power, rice grains are also embellished with a pleasant and captivating gold color that makes this dish unique.

This recipe is the basic version of saffron risotto. Into Italian cuisine is not rare to find saffron risotto recipes variants. The most famous are those with the addition of porcini mushrooms, sausages, or shellfish.

Tips to prepare an excellent saffron risotto

Use high-quality saffron

This tip could be obvious, but it is of vital importance. The finest quality of saffron has more taste, aroma, and coloring power compared saffron of the second choice or safflower. The last thing that we want is a tasteless risotto and not inviting to the eye.

If you use high-quality saffron, your risotto’s taste will be intense and robust; the grains also will acquire the perfect golden color. 

You have to manage the broth correctly

Broth management is essential to prepare all kinds of risotto, not only saffron risotto. When you are going to prepare the onion sautéed, add little by little the broth in a way to wither it gently, without it taking color, caramelizing, or burning. 

It would help if you used the same calm when adding the broth for rice cooking. After you have toasted the grains, add the broth on a level just above the rice. Maintain the same level during the whole cuisine. If you use too much broth, it will take longer for the rice to absorb it. This may overcook the rice. On the contrary, if you use it too little, you risk burning the rice on the bottom of the pan.

Stock managing isn’t simple at the first tries, but you will train the right eye for it by keeping practicing.


If you made too much risotto and couldn’t finish it, you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can also put it in the freezer if you plan to eat it later on. 


  • Large Saucepan

Ingredients for saffron risotto

  • 1 tsp Saffron strands
  • 60 g Butter
  • 80 g Grana padano DOP Cow's milk cheese used for grating, similar to Parmigiano Reggiano
  • q.s. Water
  • q.s Salt
  • 1 l Vegetable broth
  • 1/2 glass White wine
  • 250 g Rice Carnaroli, perfect for risotto
  • 1 Onion

How to prepare saffron risotto

  1. Soak the saffron strand into the water (just enough to cover them) and let it rest overnight.
  2. In a little pan prepare the vegetable broth.
  3. Cut the onion finely to melt in cooking and not be perceived while savoring the risotto.
  4. Heat in a large saucepan 20 gr (more or less) of butter on low flame. Add the chopped onion and leave it for 10-15 minutes, adding some broth to keep the sautéed from drying out.
  5. At this point, add the rice at let it toast evenly for 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, and occasionally stir until it evaporates completely.
  6. Set the flame on medium and add the vegetable broth one dipper a time until it thoroughly covers the rice. Keep adding broth when absorbed by the rice: the broth must always cover the grains. Stir it from time to time.
  7. Few minutes before the rice is cooked, add the saffron infuse and stir until dye the risotto with beautiful gold color.
  8. Once cooked, turn off the heat, add a pinch of salt, whisk with the grated cheese and the remaining grams of butter. The risotto should be creamy, so if it is too dense, add another bit of stock or if it's too liquid, let it dry a bit on the flame again.
  9. Let it rest for 2 minutes or so. At this point, the saffron risotto is ready.
  10. Set the risotto on plates, garnish with a few more saffron pistils and serve.