Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, Vegan/Vegetarian

Saffron Risotto (Risotto allo Zafferano)

Nicoletta January 8, 2020

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Saffron Risotto (Risotto allo Zafferano),  a simple and easy recipe for a weeknight meal, or a light lunch. This classic risotto is a typical dish of Northern Italy, but now widespread in all Italian regions. The few ingredients enhance the aromatic qualities of saffron which also gives that beautiful golden color that makes this dish so unique. 

Song of the day: “Gold” by Prince.

Saffron Risotto-in the plate

Risotto allo Zafferano, Saffron Risotto, a dish that graced our table many times when I was living at home with my parents. Quite fast, easy, and loved by everyone, made it a good option for my mom to serve it to the family. Since none of us is a meat lover, Saffron Risotto was always made with vegetable broth and never served alongside meat. You can choose to use either a vegetable or meat broth and serve it with your favorite protein.



Saffron Risotto

Saffron risotto is a classic recipe from Lombardia, in the North of Italy, but now widespread in all Italian regions. A simple and very tasty dish that requires only a few ingredients. As a matter of fact, as most Italian dishes, since only a few ingredients are needed, it is important that they are of good quality.

What you need:
  • Carnaroli rice (always our choice for risotto, but Arborio rice is fine)
  • saffron (either saffron threads or saffron powder)
  • butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • yellow onion
  • vegetable broth (or meat broth, traditionally beef)
  • white wine
  • Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano)

Saffron Risotto-ingredients

TIP: If using the saffron threads, leave them overnight (or for at least an hour) to infuse with 2 teaspoons of water and then strain the ‘juice’ before adding it to the risotto.

Making risotto is quite easy and straightforward, although it requires some time and care. To obtain the perfect, creamy risotto, follow the steps and suggestions on this post, here.

Important steps:
  1. Have your broth on the stove top on low/medium heat to keep warm while making risotto. 
  2. Toast the rice  for a couple of minutes before adding the liquids.
  3. Add enough broth to cover the surface of the rice, however not submerging the rice in broth.
  4. Add the next ladle of broth only when the broth has almost evaporated and very little is left in the pan.
  5. Stir and stir, but not continuously. 
  6. Always finish risotto with butter and Parmigiano (or Grana Padano), stir vigourously to blend, then cover and let sit for a couple of minutes.
  7. Serve risotto immediately.

Saffron Risotto-butter and parmigiano

Remember: risotto is ready when still al dente and a bit runny. At this point, add a nice knob of butter and a good handful of grated Grana or Parmigiano. Stir to mingle, then turn off the heat, and on goes the lid and let it sit for a couple of minutes. The resting time allows the starch in the rice grains to plump up and release their creaminess. The rice keeps cooking and absorbing the liquid for many minutes after it is turned off, that is why it is so easy to have an overcooked and dry risotto.

Ready to plate

In just a few steps and in about 20 minutes, you will bring a tasty and creamy Saffron Risotto to the table that everybody will love. Serve Risotto immediately after the 1-2 minute resting time. Every kind of risotto is best eaten warm, just after it is made. Anyway, it keeps well even for the following day, provided that you have cooked the rice al dente. Simply warm it up adding a little broth and a little butter.

TIP: Make arancini, or supplì, with your leftover risotto.

Saffron Risotto-two plates

A luxurious feast of the palate

What I love about this risotto is its elegance in a simple sort of way. The rice with its mild nuttiness and slight bite pairs so well with the somewhat floral yet honey-sweet profile of the saffron. The butter and vegetable stock help seal the deal enhancing even more how creamy and delicious this plate is. I have to say the Grana Padano gives a nice hit of flavor to perk up the subtleness of the saffron and butter. As simple as it is, it presents itself with great distinction and I would never deny myself a spoonful of this Saffron Risotto (Risotto allo Zafferano).


Song of the day: “Gold” by Prince.

Saffron Risotto-spoon in

Saffron Risotto (Risotto allo Zafferano)

  • Author: Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 23 minutes
  • Yield: 3-4 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta, Risotto
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian


Saffron Risotto (Risotto allo Zafferano),  a simple and easy recipe for a weeknight meal, or a light lunch. This classic risotto is a typical dish of Northern Italy, but now widespread in all Italian regions. The few ingredients enhance the aromatic qualities of saffron which also gives that beautiful golden color that makes this dish so unique.


  • 2 Tbsp evo oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter + more for finishing
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 packet (0,100 g/0,0035oz.) saffron powder
  • 200 g (3/4 cup) Carnaroli rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup Grana Padano


  1. Pour vegetable broth into a pot and keep on low/medium heat.
  2. Heat up oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a medium-deep saute pan (or an enameled cast iron pot).
  3. Add in the minced onion and saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the rice and coat well with the oil/butter. Toast the rice for about 1-2 minutes stirring constantly, then pour in the white wine, stir, and cook till wine dissipates about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the first 2 ladles of broth into the rice and stir. Keep the heat to a medium setting.
  6. Once the broth is almost all evaporated, add the next ladle and sir. Repeat this for about 15 minutes, stirring often but not constantly. The rice should be almost cooked.
  7. During the last 5 minute cooking time, in the last ladle of broth dissipate the saffron powder. Pour it into the rice and stir.
  8. When the broth has almost all evaporated but the rice is still a bit runny and al dente, turn off heat, add in the last of the butter and the Grana Padano. Stir well until all melted and incorporated. Cover and let sit for a couple of minutes.
  9. Spoon into dishes and enjoy warm.


You can replace the vegetable broth with meat (usually beef) broth, to make the saffron risotto even tastier.

The broth must be kept on low/medium heat in order not to slow down the cooking time, and added to the rice a ladle at a time so that the grains release the starch gradually.

Risotto is best made and served immediately. Any leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 1-2 days and may be turned into arancini.

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Saffron Risotto-spoon in

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  • Avatar
    Reply Tami Price January 9, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    I love Risotto, so I was eager to try this recipe! It was absolutely perfect and went nicely with my grilled lemon peppered chicken breast! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta January 12, 2020 at 12:23 am

      Thank you for trying our recipe. It is our favorite and go-to risotto.

  • Avatar
    Reply Veena Azmanov January 9, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome color and the creaminess and buttery look of the Risotto makes it yum. This goes for a comforting and happy meal.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta January 12, 2020 at 12:24 am

      Yes, the color is incredible and the flavor too! Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Matt - Total Feasts May 11, 2020 at 2:21 am

    I saw a saffron risotto being made on Masterchef Australia years ago, and I’ve always wanted to make one. It looks so cool!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto May 11, 2020 at 6:42 am

      Hi Matt, love saffron and this is a wonderful recipe. I hope now you can make it. Check out our recipe really easy and so beautiful!
      Have fun cooking it and Thank you for sharing!

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