This Golden Saffron Risotto with Asparagus is delicate and aromatic, filled with spring veggies like green asparagus, sweet peas and a touch of parmesan.
I wouldn’t dare to call this dish “Risotto alla Milanese” since it contains some asparagus and peas, but truth be told, it’s pretty similar. Also, the original Risotto alla Milanese is usually made with beef broth and is the only risotto generally not served as a “primo,” first course, but as a side dish. Usually served with Ossobuco, this risotto is the king of the North (…of Italy, not Westeros…). For this Saffron Risotto with Asparagus particular recipe, I consider it a “main meal,” but it could also be served as a Primo or side dish.
You can make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth, replacing the butter with olive oil and omitting the parmesan.
Saffron is the most precious of spices; the flower’s stigmas, called threads, are picked up by hand, one by one, and then dried up. Imagine, in a single pinch of saffron, which is about 15 threads; someone had to pick up about five flowers (saffron crocus) and take one by one each thread… before drying them. What a job! To make a single gram of dry saffron, you would need about 150 flowers… so the reason it costs a pretty penny is apparent.
Another factor to its “preciousness” is its colour, a unique golden hue that tints many traditional dishes worldwide, from paella, tajine, Biryani, etc. It also tastes quite powerful with a unique hay tone, which can rapidly overwhelm you if you overdo saffron. You better go with modesty on this spice. For this particular recipe, the saffron shines through really well; I’ve used two small pinches only, which I consider the max for a dish. No need for more; if you have a quality bright red saffron, that’s all you’ll need! The saffron will give your rice this golden colour, plus the asparagus will help a bit! For a delicious spring risotto!
Leaky or Tight Risotto?
Sometimes risottos are super creamy and leaky other times drier, which holds better. I believe a leaky risotto wouldn’t work for this recipe because of the big chunks of asparagus. I suggest making it slightly drier, with less broth; this will hold the veggies better. As for the final touch, “the magic” of risotto, the butter will give the rice a glossy finish, with no need for much, and the parmesan will bind everything together. My secret to a good risotto is to add a sip of white wine at the end of cooking to give it a “pop”!
Other Nice Rice Dishes
- BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BLUE CHEESE RISOTTO
- PORCINI RISOTTO
- MUSHROOM AND SPINACH BARLEY RISOTTO
- BLACK PAELLA
Saffron Risotto with Asparagus
- 800 ml chicken broth
- 320 g green asparagus
- 300 g carnaroli or arborio rice
- 150 ml white wine
- 150 g sweet peas (frozen or fresh)
- 1 onion
- 50 g parmesan (to taste)
- 12 threads saffron
- 15 g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Add the saffron to warm water and let it infuse for 30 minutes.
- Add the onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a large skillet, and let it cook slowly until translucent (about 10 minutes).
- Bring the heat to medium-high, add the rice and a touch more olive oil if dry, and constantly move with a spatula until the grains start “singing” or become transparent, for about 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine, and let it evaporate completely.
- Add the broth just above the rice and mix once in a while.
- Repeat the last step as much as needed, about four times; the whole cooking process is 18-20 minutes.
- Five minutes before the end, add the saffron, asparagus and peas.
- When the rice is to your liking, mine is “al dente,” add an *optional last sip of white wine (30ml, no more).
- Stop the fire, add the butter and parmesan to taste, and check the seasoning (salt and pepper).
- Let it rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.