How to Make Stanley Tucci’s Classic Milanese Risotto

By Breeanna Hare, CNN

Of all classic Italian dishes to try, Milanese risotto is a stunner – and the good news is that it’s not hard to create outside of its namesake Milan.

That is, of course, as long as you can get your hands on saffron, the expensive spice that gives Milanese risotto its signature golden hue.

As chef Cesare Battisti explains to Stanley Tucci in “In search of Italy“, saffron found its way into the luxurious rice dish, thanks to artistic inspiration. During the construction of the Duomo in Milan, saffron was used to color the stained glass windows of the cathedral.

“The story goes that one day they were tricked into feeding them rice as yellow as the windows they made,” Battisti told Tucci.

Why rice and not pasta? “Because Italy is cut in two,” Battisti explained. “The south is very hot and wheat grows there, (but) the north is rainy and has swamps, so rice grows here.”

Battisti showed Tucci how he makes Milanese risotto at home Ratana Restaurantbut if you’re not in that neighborhood, you can always try this recipe from Tucci’s 2012 cookbook at home.

“My introduction to risotto was my mother’s Milanese risotto,” Tucci wrote, “but I have to thank (chef) Gianni Scappin for showing me the intricacies of the art of making risotto, starting with buying the good rice. I look for brands marked Carnaroli superfine. If that is not available, I buy Arborio superfine rice or Vialone Nano rice, which can be found in most supermarkets.

Milanese risotto

according to Stanley Tucci’sThe Tucci cookbook

Makes 6 servings

Tucci says there are two important steps to remember when making risotto:

“First, before adding liquid, make sure to heat the rice well with the onions that are cooked until soft,” he writes. “This will seal the grains of rice and prevent them from overcooking. Second, test the rice for desired texture after it has cooked for 12-15 minutes. Risotto can be served al dente, slightly crispy to the bite, or with a softer consistency, the choice is yours. … Don’t overcook the risotto or it will turn into a paste.


8 cups hot chicken broth, divided

1/2 teaspoon saffron powder, or 20 saffron threads

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion (about 1 small onion)

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese


1. Measure ½ cup hot stock, stir in saffron and set aside. Keep the rest of the broth warm in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with butter, oil and onions. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until wine evaporates, about 1 minute. Stir in the saffron broth and cook, letting the rice absorb it, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining broth ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition and allowing the rice to absorb the broth before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender but al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. You may have leftover broth; reserve in an airtight container in the refrigerator for another use.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Serve immediately.

serve with

“It’s traditional to serve Milanese risotto with osso buco,” Tucci said, but “it can also be served as a starter before chicken or other veal dishes.”

And if you fancy wine with that meal, Tucci recommends a medium red.

Other ideas

Add the mushrooms

Tucci suggests adding dried porcini mushrooms for another layer of flavor. Here is what you do:

1. Soak 1 cup of chopped, dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water.

2. After adding the saffron broth to the rice, pass the mushrooms through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the liquid.

3. Stir the mushrooms and strained liquid into the risotto, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before continuing with the rest of the recipe.

Leftovers? To make cakes

Take an egg, olive oil, and breadcrumbs to turn your Milanese risotto into risotto patties. Tucci recommends serving them for lunch “over a green salad or for brunch with fried eggs.” Here is what you do:

1. Add an egg to the remaining risotto and enough breadcrumbs to form a soft dough. Shape the risotto into patties about 3 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the risotto patties.

3. Cook until heated through and browned on both sides, about 8 minutes in all. Serve immediately.

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Adapted from “The Tucci Cookbook” by Stanley Tucci. Copyright © 2012 by Stanley Tucci. Reprinted with permission from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Freeda S. Scott