Vegetarian Risotto Alla Milanese: A Spring Classic for a Spring Classic

March 18, 2011 By: Megabeth Category: Main Dishes Print This Post Print This Post

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Calling all pro-cycling fans…it’s time to whip out a recipe to honor the Italian spring classic – Milan-San Remo. For this special event, I present to you with Risotto Alla Milanese. It’s perfect to honor the longest one-day monument with a local dish that also takes patience to prepare. Risotto is very simple to make, but you have to add the liquid little by little and wait for the risotto to cook through. Just like Milan-San Remo making risotto can test your endurance (in the kitchen) but the payoff is big.

First a little history lesson about this specific recipe. I’ll let Risotto: Its History describe it:

The legend of the invention of Risotto alla Milanese goes back to the year 1574. The Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic cathedral, was being built, and a young apprentice named Valerius was in charge of staining the decorated glass for the windows. Everybody was teasing him because he appeared to have added saffron to the pigments to obtain a more brilliant color. [Ed. note: perhaps he was Cipollini’s great-great-great-great-grandfather?]

Tired of the teasing, he decided to return the joke and added saffron to the rice to be served at his master’s wedding. The rice turned out so good that the idea spread immediately throughout the city and became the popular dish we know today.

Risotto  Alla Milanese (10)Meanwhile, Milan-San Remo marks the opening of the spring classic races and dates back to 1907. Winners have included legendary names like Eddy Merckx and Fausto Coppi. And, let us not forget Oscar Freire in 2004.  He famously won the race after Erik Zabel started celebrating his own “victory” at the line too soon, allowing Freire to sneak in for the win. It seems most photos of this historic moment are under restrictive copyright and I didn’t have time to get permission to post here. So, please accept my color pencil representation of the moment Freire snatched victory from Zabel’s upraised hands.

Feire Steals Victory from Zabel

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not have a drop of Italian blood in me but I tried to stay true to the “authentic” recipe as much as possible (so please don’t send your Italian grandmother out to throw kitchen utensils at my head for not keeping 100% with tradition). True Risotto Alla Milanese uses bone marrow and some sort of meat stock. It also involves a LOT of butter. I modified the recipe a bit so that my arteries wouldn’t clog by the time I finished eating a bowl of this. But I did keep with the tradition of using saffron and slowly cooking the onions so that they were soft and fragrant by the time the risotto enters the dish. Oh, and try to use a homemade broth, as it helps deepen the flavors and adds another homey touch to this comfort food.

Risotto Alla Milanese
by Megabeth

2 cups Arborio risotto
1 small onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
3 Tablespoons butter
2/3 cup dry white wine
approximately 6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup shredded Parmesean cheese (with vegetable rennet to keep this vegetarian)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Crush the saffron threads with the back of a spoon into a powder. (You can chop the saffron threads into smaller bits first, but hold your hand over them as they tend to go everywhere.  Like Cavendish in a sprint.)

Risotto  Alla Milanese (9)

Melt butter over medium heat. Add crushed saffron to butter, stir for 1 minute to allow butter to absorb saffron flavors.

Risotto  Alla Milanese (8)

Turn heat to low and add onions. Simmer for 10 minutes until soft.

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Meanwhile, heat vegetable broth so it is warmed (either in microwave or in sauce pan on stove). Add dried risotto to butter and onions and stir for two minutes until risotto is coated with butter and heated.

Risotto  Alla Milanese (6)

Add white wine, salt and pepper and stir to coat risotto. Allow risotto to absorb the wine. Add 1/2 cup of the warmed vegetable stock. Again allow risotto to absorb almost all the liquid, then add the next 1/2 cup. I try to limit stirring of risotto during these steps as the more stirring you do, the less creamy your risotto will get. The key is the just stir is enough to distribute the “just added” liquid and keep the risotto from sticking to the bottom, but let it sit during the cooking process.

Risotto  Alla Milanese (5)

Continue adding the liquid in 1/2 cup increments and allowing it to absorb until risotto is soft. Towards the end of the cooking process, I tend to do a lot of taste testing to make sure it’s at the correct softness. Once the risotto is cooked, stir in a the shredded Parmesean cheese until it’s melted through.

Risotto  Alla Milanese (4)

Pour yourself a glass of nice Italian wine and dig in!

vegetarian risotto alla milanese

Risotto  Alla Milanese (1)

2 Comments to “Vegetarian Risotto Alla Milanese: A Spring Classic for a Spring Classic”

  1. It’s the second year in a row that I’ve made this for Christmas dinner – thankyou! Such a great recipe, and I love your site very much!

  2. Thanks so much, Sarah! A Merry Christmas to you!


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