Saffron Risotto Recipe

Saffron Risotto Recipe
Staff Writer
Saffron

Istock/FotografiaBasica

Saffron

Throughout the centuries saffron has been a symbol of wealth and elegance. Cleopatra used saffron water to keep her skin soft. Roman Emperor Nero sprinkled the streets with saffron water to honor his return to Rome. Persians considered it a tonic for the heart as it was thought to alleviate melancholy. (However, they believed too much of it could produce a state of euphoria and even death from too much laughter!). 

A spice consisting of the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, it was introduced into Spain by the Arabs, and later cultivated in Mediterranean regions and elsewhere in Europe. In France, it was grown by “safraniers” in the sixteenth century. In England, the Essex town of Saffron Walden became the center of saffron cultivation.

Rice was introduced into Italy during the Middle Ages by Venetian or Genoese merchants who traded with the east.  The earliest documentation of rice cultivation in Italy dates to 1475. Risotto is specific to northern Italy where rice paddies are abundant. — Maite Gomez-Réjon.

Adapted from the ArtBites tour of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus shavings for garnish (optional)

Directions

Bring stock to a low simmer in a medium pot.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute. Cook onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add rice and a pinch of salt. Sauté until rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine and saffron; bring to a simmer, stirring, until rice has absorbed most of wine. Add 2 ladles of stock to rice; simmer, stirring, until rice has absorbed most of stock. Continue adding stock, allowing rice to absorb it before adding the next ladleful. Cook until rice is al dente and mixture is a little loose. Stir in butter.

Turn off heat. Stir in grated cheese. Cover and let sit 2 minutes before serving.

 

Click here to see the Eating Through the Ages: A Musuem and Culinary Tour story.

Saffron Risotto Shopping Tip

Italian food is about simplicity and letting the ingredients shine. So make sure you get ingredients that are great quality and flavor. Farmers markets and specialty stores will have great produce and products. Just be sure to have some great olive oil.

Saffron Risotto Cooking Tip

Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation.