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Catholic Recipe: Risotto alla Milanese


  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 ounces (45 grams) bone marrow, finely chopped (substitute could be bacon fat or more butter)
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1 pound (450 grams) Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • About 5 cups simmering beef or chicken broth
  • 6 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional cheese for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Details

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time: N/A
  • Difficulty: • • •
  • Cost: $$$$
  • For Ages: All
  • Origin: Milan, Italy

Also Called: Risotto, Milan Style

Saffron added to the rice turns it a deep yellow and adds a subtle yet pungent flavor.

Bone marrow is essential for a good risotto. Many butchers give it away for nothing. you can freeze the marrow in small quantities and use it as you need for risotto.

The rice for risotto should be Italian superfino Arborio rice, slightly moist and al dente when done. The rice will continue to cook after it has been removed from the flame, so be ready to add the butter and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese immediately.

The entire process of cooking the risotto takes roughly 45 minutes and requires your full attention.

In Italy we say Il riso nasce nell' acqua e muore nel vino," meaning rice is born in water and dies in wine, so have a good dry white wine ready to serve with the risotto.

The end of the recipe also has an idea for leftover risotto pancakes.


Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter with the marrow in a saucepan large enough to cook the rice, making sure the marrow dissolves. Add the onion and saute gently until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until every grain is coated and shiny, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the wine and keep stirring until it evaporates.

Dissolve the saffron in 2 tablespoons of the hot broth and set aside.

Add the remaining hot broth to the rice, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding more. The risotto should always be moist. After about 15 minutes, taste the rice. It should be al dente. Add the saffron, stir, and cook for 3 minutes, adding broth as necessary and stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat when still moist and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the 6 tablespoons Parmesan. Cover tightly and allow the risotto to set for 3 minutes. Turn out onto a heated serving dish and serve with freshly ground black pepper and more Parmesan as needed.

NOTE: The risotto should be, as we say in Italy, al onda, or wavy. It should be served slightly moist, not dry.

Riso al Salto

The literal translation of riso al salto is "jumping rice." A popular Milanese dish, it is an excellent way to use up leftover risotto (many restaurants make risotto simply for this second incarnation). The flat cake of rice is fried in butter until browned on both sides, like a pancake. Romans cook leftover pasta the same way, unless the pasta has been coated with a stringy cheese such as Gruyere or Fontina.

The risotto or pasta should be very cold--just out of the refrigerator.

Make one pancake at a time. Put 1 tablespoon butter in a nonstick frying pan the size of a plate. Add 2 heaped tablespoons or more of risotto. Flatten with a wooden spatula to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (3/4 cm), like a pancake. Cook until browned.

Put the lid on the frying pan and turn over so that the risotto "pancake" drops onto the lid. Holding the risotto on the lid, pt another piece of butter into the frying pan. Slide the unfried side of the risotto into the pan and born. Serve at once.

Recipe Source: Italian Cooking in the Grand Tradition by Jo Bettoja and Anna Maria Cornetto, The Dial Press, 1982
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