Apr 23, 2019

Saffron Risotto

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
This risotto is characterized by the gold hue and flavor from the threads of saffron.

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This risotto is characterized by the gold hue and flavor from the threads of saffron. Threads of the red spice are beautiful but they are also quite expensive. It’s so expensive (it made the list of most expensive foods) because each flower only produces a few threads and blooms for only a few weeks every year — not to mention they are harvested by hand.

Saffron Risotto

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

Saffron

When you realize the work that goes into getting them, you may be able to accept the expensive price tag. At the moment it’s about $1500 per pound but it’s typically sold by the gram. It’s sold at the grocery store for about $9 for one ounce. And yet, despite the expense, I maintain that the saffron is worth it – the threads add a subtle, sweet flavor as well as that striking color.

Rice 

Arborio rice is the most commonly used rice for making risotto. It’s an Italian short-grain, white rice with a high starch content. It can be substituted with other starchy short-grain varieties like Carnaroli or Vialone Nano if desired though Arborio is the most accessible. Don’t rinse risotto rice before cooking as you would when preparing long-grain varieties. You don’t want to lose any of that starch!

Chicken stock

Chicken stock is typically made from chicken bones as well as aromatics and vegetables while chicken broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Chicken stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, chicken broth is much more mellow in flavor. I typically use chicken stock when cooking. Substitute the chicken stock with water if needed (though it takes away some of the flavor.)

saffron risotto recipe from cooking with cocktail rings closeup

How to Make Saffron Risotto

  1. Warm the stock. Warm the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the onion, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice, sauté in the olive oil, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  3. Bloom the saffron. Crumble the saffron threads into the wine and add to the risotto, stirring to combine until the wine is absorbed.
  4. Slowly cook the risotto. Lower the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup of the chicken stock, stirring constantly until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue to add the chicken stock ½ cup at a time.
  5. Keep adding stock. Continue adding the stock and stirring frequently until it’s absorbed and the risotto is tender and the risotto is thick and creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  6. Add the cheese and serve. Stir in the cheese and butter then season with salt and pepper.
saffron risotto recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • I used to think that warming the stock before adding it to the rice was an unnecessary step but it really does make a difference in making the risotto creamy. If the stock is cold then the rice granules seize up – warm stock helps to coax the starch out of the rice.
  • The amount of stock used isn’t always exact. You may not use all of the stock in the ingredient list – it depends on the heat level and rice used. The best way to decide when the risotto is done is through the taste and the look. The rice should be mostly soft but slightly al dente in the middle. It should be creamy but not thick – the grains of rice should be suspended in the creamy
  • Saffron risotto tastes amazing on it’s own or paired with osso buco – a classic pairing in Milan, Italy.

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Saffron Risotto

Print Pin
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • Large pinch saffron threads
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed

Instructions:

  • Warm the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through.  Add the onion, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rice, sauté in the olive oil, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
  • Crumble the saffron threads into the wine and add to the risotto, stirring to combine until the wine is absorbed.
  • Lower the heat to medium-low and add 1 cup of the chicken stock, stirring constantly until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue to add the chicken stock ½ cup at a time.
  • Continue adding the stock and stirring frequently until it’s absorbed and the risotto is tender and the risotto is thick and creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the cheese and butter then season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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