Saffron Rice

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Saffron is one of the oldest spices that we know. We have been talking about in the Bible, in ancient Egypt, in Greek mythology and in the Roman empire where the saffron was used in cosmetics, especially to color the clothes. During the Middle Ages by the inquisitor, Domenico Santucci returned to Italy and then started to be used in the kitchen.

The Saffron Rice (yellow rice in the Milanese dialect) is one of the most typical and well-known dish in Milan.
It can also be served as a side dish for ossobuco, another typical Milanese dish.

According to a first legend, the roots of Saffron rice should be sought in the traditions of medieval kosher cuisine. Probably exported from Sicily, this recipe would have reached northern Italy thanks to the help of some Jewish merchants.


The best known story about the origin of Saffron Rice is attested by a document found at the Trivulziana library. According to the manuscript, the Milanese dish was born in 1574, mostly for fun, during the wedding of the daughter of Mastro Valerio di Fiandra, a Flemish painter who at the time worked on the windows of the Milan Cathedral. According to sources, Mastro Valerio had an assistant called Saffron, who used to mix a little of this spice with his colors, so as to make them more lively. During the wedding of Valerio’s daughter, Zafferano’s craze passed from the palette to the table: the assistant, perhaps as a joke, agreed with the cook to add some saffron to the risotto which, at the time, was served with only butter. The reaction of the guests was surprising: saffron, in addition to adding an exquisite flavor to the dish, made it the same color as gold, a symbol of wealth and prosperity!

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 160 g Carnaroli Rice
  • 1/2 onion
  • 40 ml dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon Saffron pistils
  • 70 g butter
  • 50 g grated Grana Padano Cheese
  • 1 l of beef or chicken stock (vegetanle broth if you are vegetarian)
  • 20 g Beef marrow (optional)


  1. The day before in a small glass stir and leave in infusion overnight the saffron pistils until to obtain a ruby-red liquid
  2. Start to prepare the beef or chicken broth, reduce the heat when boils, and keeps warm
  3. Before starting to cut the onion, wet the knife with cold water to avoid starting to cry when you cut the onion. Then put the chop onion with the 40 g butter (store the other one butter in the fridge for later) in a cooking pot, add broth and leave at low heat for 10 minutes until the onion becomes soft and transparent
  4. Add the rice, toast for 4 minutes, and douse with the wine until the wine is evaporated
  5. Now start to add the broth one ladle at the time. The rice must cook for about 15 minutes (depend on the packaging’s instruction), always covered by the broth. After 10 minutes (5 minutes before the end of cooking), add the infused saffron pistils and mix until to obtain a yellow risotto. Turn of the fire adjusts with salt
  6. Take the pot off, add the grated Grana Padano cheese, add the remaining butter stored in the fridge, and start to stir
  7. Cover with a lid and let stand for 5 minutes
  8. Now you can serve on a plate. If you planned to serve with the beef marrow, now it is the time to add



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