Risotto Milanese and Art Nouveau Soup Spoons

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Risotto Milanese is divine.  After years and years (and years) of cooking risotto, it finally occurred to me to make some Risotto Milanese a couple of weekends ago.  What I want to know is, what took me so long?  I think it was the saffron.  I rarely cook with it and usually don’t have any on hand.  However, a happy –the stars are aligning moment — at the grocery store prompted me to get some saffron as I remembered I had the appropriate rice in my pantry.  It took me a couple of tries to get it just right, but the result is a Risotto Milanese that is now firmly on the list of family favorites.

Risotto Milanese

Just as scrumptious to look at as it is to eat!

 Risotto Milanese Spoons?

As I was plotting the photo shoot that went along with this batch, I began to think about how I would present the risotto.  I knew I wanted a plain white bowl and a dark background to make that saffron yellow really jump out of the image.  It was also a given that I’d have some sort of spoon too.  But as I thought about it, I realised that in all the years I’ve been dealing in antique and vintage silver, I’d never run across a specific ‘risotto’ spoon!

A quick look through several of my catalogs didn’t turn one up.  I’m certain some pattern out there does have one…perhaps Versailles with it’s 108 pieces for a single place setting!

In lieu of a risotto spoon, I used an Art Nouveau cream soup spoon in the Violet pattern designed by Wallace in 1904.  It has a lovely rounded bowl, just perfect for delivering the risotto safely to your mouth.  Trust me, you won’t want to miss a single grain!

In the photo, I love how the bowl of the spoon acts as a mirror; reflecting the risotto.  It made a great prop and I got the shots quickly, which allowed me to put away the soup spoons and get the bowls of risotto onto the table for my family to dig into with our tablespoons.

Risotto Milanese (click title for printer-friendly version)

Serves 4 as a main course.

Risotto Milanese

Hello saffron! Risotto tip #2 made all the difference.

Risotto tip #1 – Use the right rice!  Choose a rice that’s right for risotto…after much taste testing I ran across (and adore) Antica Riseria Vialone Nano Rice…good stuff.

Risotto tip #2 – Get the most saffron out of your saffron. This took me several tries with Risotto Milanese. The first time I made it, I used the typical amount, but the color was a bit anemic.  The next time I doubled the saffron, while that was better on the eyes, it wasn’t so good for the palate.

Finally I came across this gem of a tip.  Before soaking the saffron in the hot water, place it on a cutting board and add a tiny pinch of salt.  Then using the flat of a knife (or a mortar and pestle, if you have one) gently grind them together for a few moments.  This made a tremendous difference to the color while keeping the flavors in balance.

Risotto tip #3 – Add the saffron liquid to the rice first.  Using the saffron liquid first made attempt number 4 the charm.


  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large pinch saffron (in weight it came to 0.007 oz)
  • 1 tiny pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup just boiled water
  • 1 qt. chicken stock
  • 1 cup very hot water (just in case)
  • 2  or 3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley to garnish (I use the flat leaf variety)

Grind together the saffron and the sea salt, then pour the mixture into the just boiled water to soak (and release that gorgeous color and flavor).  While the saffron soaks, pour the chicken stock into a pan and bring it to a simmer. Keep it very hot.

Next, measure out the rice and set aside, then chop the onion into small pieces.  In a nice large saucepan, over medium heat, pour in some olive oil.  Once it’s warm, add in the onions and cook until soft and golden (not crisp and brown).  After the onions are cooked, add the rice and stir thoroughly.

risotto milanese

See how the risotto is a little creamy, but the rice grains are still well shaped? That’s what you are looking for.

Now, all at once, add your soaked saffron liquid.  Stir the rice until just about all the liquid has been absorbed.  Then, add the chicken stock, in 1/2-ish cup batches.  Just as you did with the saffron liquid, stir the rice until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next batch of stock.  This pouring and stirring process will take you about 15-18 minutes.

Once you get to the end of the stock, take a little taste test of the rice.  It should feel soft on the outside, with just a hint of firmness left inside each grain of rice.  It should not be crunchy, nor should it be soggy.  Each grain will retain its shape.  While this always sounds incredibly scary when making risotto for the first time, it is not that difficult.  The transition from undercooked to perfect to overcooked takes a few minutes.  Just keep your eyes open.

If you run out of stock and the rice is not yet cooked, don’t panic!  This is what the additional hot water is for.  Add in batches and stir until the rice is done.  You might not have this happen…cooking times and the amount of liquid are dependent on the type of rice you use.  Better to be ready, rather than running around trying to figure out what to do while your risotto gets ruined!

Once the rice has turned into risotto, turn off the heat, and add the Parmesan.  Stir until the cheese is completely melted.  After the cheese has been added, this is the time to taste again and determine how much salt you need. The Parmesan is quite salty so add seasoning accordingly.  Once you are satisfied, serve into bowls and garnish with the parsley (I added a little saffron and a shaving or two of Parmesan for the full photographic effect.  Feel free to garnish to your taste.)  Enjoy!


Pass on this Risotto Milanese recipe to someone who likes Italian food!


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