Legend says that this dish was invented in Milan by a stained-glass window artisan who worked in the cathedral. It is said that this signore was planning a wedding for his daughter and wanted to convey the opulence of the nobility, who used to sprinkle gold dust on their risotto as a show of their wealth.
The artisan did not have the funds for the gold dust, but as he used saffron to color a yellow panel of his window, genius struck. He had the idea to use saffron in the wedding menu, and risotto alla Milanese was born. Like all legends and culinary folklore, this tale may or may not be completely true, but we can’t argue with the results!
These days, saffron is nearly as expensive as gold dust, so if the luxe threads are not in your grocery budget, skip them; the risotto won’t have that bright yellow hue or the subtle flavor of the saffron, but it will still be delicious.
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
3½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup white wine
A generous pinch of saffron
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup Parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and wine to a boil. Lower the temperature and keep the liquid to a simmer. Add the saffron.
In a larger saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onion, salt and pepper. Stir until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat it. When the rice is glossy, add 1 cup of hot broth and stir constantly until it is absorbed.
When the broth is absorbed, add another cup. When the second cup is absorbed, add ½ cup broth. Repeat until all the broth is gone and the rice is creamy, approximately 30 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately, passing additional cheese, if desired.