This risotto is characterized by the gold hue and flavor from the threads of saffron. Threads of the red spice are beautiful but they are also quite expensive. It’s so expensive (it made the list of most expensive foods) because each flower only produces a few threads and blooms for only a few weeks every year -- not to mention they are harvested by hand. When you realize the work that goes into getting them, you may be able to accept the expensive price tag. At the moment it’s about $1500 per pound but it’s typically sold by the gram. It’s sold at the grocery store for about $9 for one ounce. And yet, despite the expense, I maintain that the saffron is worth it - the threads add a subtle, sweet flavor as well as that striking color.
I used to think that warming the stock before adding it to the rice was an unnecessary step but it really does make a difference in making the risotto creamy. If the stock is cold then the rice granules seize up – warm stock helps to coax the starch out of the rice. The amount of stock used isn’t always exact. You may not use all of the stock in the ingredient list – it depends on the heat level and rice used. The best way to decide when the risotto is done is through the taste and the look. The rice should be mostly soft but slightly al dente in the middle. It should be creamy but not thick – the grains of rice should be suspended in the creamy
Saffron risotto tastes amazing on it’s own or paired with osso buco – a classic pairing in Milan, Italy.
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup arborio rice
Large pinch saffron threads
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Warm the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the onion, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice, sauté in the olive oil, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Crumble the saffron threads into the wine and add to the risotto, stirring to combine until the wine is absorbed.
Lower the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup of the chicken stock, stirring constantly until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue to add the chicken stock ½ cup at a time. Continue adding the stock and stirring frequently until it’s absorbed and the risotto is tender and the risotto is thick and creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cheese and butter then season with salt and pepper.