Risotto alla Milanese Classico

Classic Milanese Risotto


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

The origins of this dish belong to an Italian legend about the master in charge of stained glass windows in Milan Cathedral, who employed a keen workman to paint the yellow robes of St Helen. The workman used saffron to colour the glass and he was so passionate about his saffron powder that he was named Zafferano (meaning ‘saffron’) by his colleagues, who claimed that one day he’d probably even add it to his risotto! and one day he did: on the occasion of the wedding of the master’s daughter, he presented two tureens of the golden risotto, coloured and scented with saffron as a gift. This traditional recipe includes beef bone marrow but, if you prefer, use only butter instead.


  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 115 g/4 oz/½ cup unsalted butter
  • 40 g/ oz raw beef bone marrow, chopped (optional)
  • 500 g/ lb vialone gigante, or other risotto rice
  • 1.5 litres/ pints/ cups hot rich veal, beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1-2 sachets of saffron powder, or a small pinch of saffron threads
  • 50 g/2 oz/ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve


  1. Soak the onion in cold water for 10 minutes, then drain and squeeze dry in a napkin.
  2. Heat half the butter in a pan, add the onion and fry very slowly with the beef marrow, if using, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the rice. Stir and coat the grains thoroughly until the rice grains are crackling hot but not coloured.

  3. Add a ladleful of the stock and stir constantly, allowing the liquid to be absorbed into the rice. Add another ladleful of stock and continue in this way, making sure that the rice always absorbs the stock before you add more.

  4. After 10 minutes of cooking time, add the saffron powder or threads and stir through. Continue cooking the risotto, adding stock a ladleful at a time, and stirring constantly. The risotto will take about 20 minutes to cook: when it is creamy and velvety, but the rice grains are still firm to the bite, take it off the heat.

  5. Stir in the remaining butter and the cheese. Cover and leave to rest for 2 minutes, then stir again and transfer to a warmed platter. Serve immediately, offering extra grated Parmesan cheese at the table, to sprinkle on top.