Risotto alla Milanese con radicchio – Saffron risotto with wilted radicchio

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The wetlands of Northern Italy, Lombardie and Piedmont, with cool temperatures in winter, harbor a special round rice production, the Arborio rice, which is the key ingredient of a creamy rich dish, called ‘risotto’. This rice  thick and grained is well appreciated as it retains firmness during the cooking time, and should be served, as in Italy, slightly al dente.

Italians add to their risotto, many farmland ingredients, like mushrooms, tomatoes or garden vegetables. In the past, it was prepared with beef marrow. This recipe is a much lighter and vegetarian version.

Il risotto alla Milanese, a great classic of Northern Italian cuisine, is prepared with saffron, probably one the most expensive spices worldwide. It’s an intensely flavored dish, to which I have added a wilted radicchio, typical of Northern Italy, to give it crunchy taste with a touch of bitterness. The superb rich flavor of saffron, combined with the simplicity of  country radicchio, bring this dish to an all different level.

It’s a great dish, really easy when you master the technique of risotto, 25 minutes to the table, to share, when you have guests or with family now, or during the Holidays.

 Ingredients: 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as main dish

  •  1+ 3/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 2- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divide
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  1 1/2 quarts of vegetable broth or water, or chicken broth
  • 2 small or 1 medium shallots thinly slice
  •  1 teaspoon saffron powder or 2 threads of saffron
  •  1 small glass of  dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  1 good cup grated Parmesan cheese or more
  • 1/2 cup of radicchio head, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch of sugar

How you make it:

  1. In a medium saucepan warm your broth.
  2. Melt butter and oil in a second medium saucepan, add shallots and sautè till soft
  3. Add rice, sautè till grains will slightly change color, cook for 5 minutes, at slow medium heat without browning. Add wine, stir and cook for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add broth enough to cover the rice, let cook, stirring often till liquid is almost absorbed. Add some more liquid and continue, adding broth in the same way till rice is almost al dente. At the end add saffron, 1 tbablespoon of butter, salt and pepper, stir well, cook one minute more.
  5. Remove from heat, add Parmesan, and let it sit 4 minutes.
  6. While rice is sitting, heat in a small skillet, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, saute’ slices of radicchio with a pinch of sugar till wilted but still crunchy, about 2 minutes.
  7. Serve risotto on each plate, sprinkle with ground pepper, add a spoon of radicchio slices, garnish with Parmesan shavings.

Great side with a roast beef or veal, or sirloin steak, wonderful by itself with a garden salad!

Buon appetito amici miei..

Cooking tips: Radicchio is a red veined leafy salad, compact like a ball, also called Italian chicory.

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