Saffron Risotto

Risotto is an easy to make side but does require your constant attention from start to finish. This recipe uses dried Porcini mushrooms and while you can substitute, the finished dish will be compromised so I encourage you to use the Porcini’s. The recipe also uses white wine and fresh basil and saffron so a trip to a specialty market may be required.

Risotto is generally considered an Italian dish but the best risotto I ever had was while cycling through northern Spain. It was so good, I ordered it every day for lunch as I peddled toward the Pyrenees knowing I’d need both energy and endurance. Risotto is made using Arborio rice, which is not processed as much as other rice so it retains more starch resulting in a creamer, firmer and more chewy dish.

If you ever want to experience what buying gold or diamonds is like, go to the store and buy some saffron, you pay close to $30 for what looks like a scarce vial of a reddish thread of flower petal. Once you cook with saffron though, you’ll be convinced its worth the cost. I was lucky enough to spend three days in Marseille a couple years ago and while wandering around found myself in an African street market filled with exotic herbs and spices. I was introduced to several varieties of saffron from informed shop keepers, from very expensive to affordable. I stocked up so now I have a good supply. You can either pay outrageous super market prices or fly to Marseille and get it fresh from the African market it’s your choice but France what’s not to like about Marseille.


  • 1.5 oz. dried Porcini Mushrooms, ~1.5 cups – well rinsed
  • 64 oz. Chicken stock
  • 1/2 onion – diced
  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 oz. white wine – Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
  • 4 oz. Parmesan cheese – fresh and grated
  • 2 oz. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2 TBL olive oil
  • 4 TBL Basil – chiffonade
  • 1 TBL salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 0.75 tsp – saffron – crushed


  1. Mise en Place – measure and prepare your ingredients in advance.
  2. Rehydrate mushrooms – place mushrooms in two cups of boiling water and let soak for 30 mins until soft.
    • Place cheese cloth over a strainer and strain mushrooms – retain soaking water to mix with stock.
    • Rinse off any remaining sand in several water trades. You have to be thorough or your dish will be ruined…no one likes chewing sand.
  3. Bring stock to a simmer then add the saffron and salt. Reduce heat to a slow simmer.
  4. Heat heavy skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and allow to heat. Once oil is hot, add onions and sauté until translucent (~3mins).
  5. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Let rice cook until it starts to crackle (~1-2 mins).
  6. Add wine and stir until the wine evaporates. I always use cheap wine and invite the surplus to keep me company while I cook.
  7. In many steps, ladle in enough hot stock to barely cover rice. Stir until the stock is both absorbed and evaporated.
  8. Repeat previous step until rice is al dente and stock is consumed. Rice should be neither runny or dry…sounds ambiguous I know, but you’ll get a feel for what’s required as your repeat step 7 multiple times.* The rice will expand during this operation.
  9. Add mushrooms, butter, cheese and basil. Fold into rice.
  10. Serve immediately.

Notes: * Don’t feel like you have to use all the stock if the rice seems ready.