CLASSIC pasta risotto Milanese style, with
pancetta and saffron









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This is a slightly different version of the classic risotto Milanese, adapted from Marcella's Classic Italian Cook Book. This is really our favorite of the Milanese classics. In one of my visits to a home in Milan where I had a wonderful risotto, my hostess, a successful architect in that city, gave me a lengthy presentation on the impassioned sides taken in Milan in the risotto dispute: does one use chicken stock or beef stock. Families almost split over this fundamental difference. We stayed neutral -- we just loved any risotto we had in Milan. Whatever the stock used, most probably it had been slowly cooking throughout the day, which means nothing short of perfection. This one uses beef; the other Milanese recipe in Classic Pasta uses chicken.


  • two cups of Arborio rice (or the two other approved varieties)
  • five cups of beef stock (chicken stock will do)
  • two tablespoons finely chopped shallots (or onion)
  • five tablespoons butter
  • two tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • one-half cup dry white wine
  • a pinch of saffron (one half teaspoon at the most). See note.
  • one-half cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • one tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper

Saffron note: powdered saffron is available, or chop whole saffron. Dissolve it in a cup of the hot broth that is used in the cooking cycle.

to cook: (a more detailed an elaborate description of the risotto cooking technique can be found at how to cook risotto).

Bring the stock to a slow simmer in a pan next to the risotto pan. In a thick-bottomed pan (the risotto pan), over medium-high heat: add three tablespoons of butter and oil. Add the pancetta. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice and stir until each grain is coated with the oil.  Add the white wine. Cook and stir until it is absorbed by the rice, about two minutes. Add salt. Now add the hot stock, ladle by ladle, only adding another ladle when the previous ladle of liquid has been absorbed, stirring almost all of the time. After about fifteen minutes, add the cup of broth with the dissolved saffron. Continue adding the ladles of stock until the rice is properly done: twenty minutes or so.

Determine proper doneness by tasting regularly. When it is properly al dente, with a little creaminess, it is ready. Take off the heat. Stir in the parmesan, and the two tablespoons of butter. Serve.



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