Winter, winter, winter, I was swimming in the river the other day and it’s already almost Christmas.
Casachiesi wants to please you with a wintry, tasteful recipe that you can surely appreciate in the coming cold weather: Risotto allo Zafferano e Ossobuco.

I’ve come to know from old cooking books that this traditional Milanese dish requires veal meet instead of beef due to its softness.The calf, to be tender, must not weigh more than 300 kg. and should have been fed only with milk.

The cut needed for the recipe is the rear calf shank which is the more tender. The obtained slices, 3 to 4 cm. thick, are inclusive of the central bone with its marrow, the essential element of the dish. Melting while cooking the marrow, together with the peel that binds the pulp, contributes to conferring taste and thickness to the sauce.

  • Risotto al Zaferano
  • Risotto al Zaferano
  • Risotto al Zaferano
  • Risotto al Zaferano
  • Risotto al Zaferano
  • Risotto al Zaferano

First you need to flour your meat and than you let it cook on both side in a wide pan were you have melted a little quantity of butter (you can mix with some extra virgin olive oil) together with some finely chopped white onion. Once the shanks are slightly brown you adjust with salt and pepper, pour half a glass of dry white wine and let it evaporate for a couple of minutes. This preparation needs to be wet: the meat will be cooked covered for another hour, at low temperature, with the addition of beef broth, added a little bit at a time. When almost ready, your shanks must be further flavored with a base of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel called “gremolata“.

This dish preparation in italian is “white” or bianca, which means without tomato.

Tomato was widely used in the South of Italy when the recipe was born but arrived in Northen Italy cuisine only in late 1800.
Half an hour before the meat is ready you can start cooking your risotto with saffron, which is the typical accompaniment to this traditional dish.

Do you want the “oh my God, I only have fifteen minutes before my guests arrive” version or the real one?

I’m sure you want the real one.

Whenever you try something new you should be wise enough to opt for a relaxing situation!

First of all both for the Ossobucco and for the Risotto you should have 1 and ½ liter of real beef broth which is the secret for an outstanding dish (for the broth recipe I promise another article).

The other secret is the perfect rice quality and brand: not all the Italian rice can guarantee the same “cooking performace”. Usually stay away from the cheap ones: they get soft outside and stay hard inside ( which makes an obvious comparison with boyfriends and lovers, just to give you an idea of what you should get rid of right away).

Last but not least: the saffron. As you can learn watching our previous article about this spice,

Saffron is hard to cultivate and quite expensive. Italy produces very good saffron and if you want to really succeed buy the pistils and not the powder. The result is so dramatically different you will never come back to the supermarket version.

One more advice: make sure the white wine you pour at the beginning is of a good quality otherwise you will always feel a sour aftertaste in your risotto. Open a bottle, it’s going to go anyway.
Here you go with the recipe:

For 5 people:
1 little white onion
½ a glass of white dry wine
1 liter of beef broth
2 fists full of Carnaroli rice for each person and 2 extra one “for the pot”
3 gr of saffron pistils
olive oil, butter and Parmesan cheese

Keep the broth hot while you warm up a little bit (4 or 5 table spoons) of extravirgin olive oil. Chop the onion fine and let it get soft in the hot oil. Add the rice and let it caramelize stirring vigorously to prevent it from sticking.

Toast the saffron pistils in a Teflon pot and melt them in a cup with some hot broth. Put the liquid in your rice and let it be absorbed for a minute or so.

Pour the wine, let it evaporate and start adding the broth, ladle after ladle. Keep on stirring, and be patient: the fire has to be quite high to let the rice release the starch without losing its compactness.

When the rice is cooked (it will take more or less 20 minutes) the color of the saffron and its incredible perfume will be completely released: turn off the fire, put 30 gr of butter and a couple of fist of granted Parmesan cheese in the pot, stir, cover and let it rest for 3 minutes. This little time is essential: that’s when the risotto does it magic which in Italian is called MANTECATURA.

Serve the risotto nice and warm with a shank on a side: it’s a very powerful and satisfying dish to be enjoyed with a glass of red wine but if you want to taste it in the real Milanese way take the bone marrow with a teaspoon and place it on the rice….
Buon appetito!!!!!

Below you can see me and my sisters prepare this wonderful combo dish.

My book is available at the following web site:

Eating Heart

Eating Heart: Recipes and Stories from Italy

1 Comment

  1. Bren Haas
    March 30, 2023

    Thank you for sharing this simple recipe. I tried it and it was delicious! It took some time to find the Carnaroli rice and at first I used a Arborio because it was what I had. I’ve been growing my own saffron but have yet to get a harvest I can use but I keep trying for the past three years. This is a recipe I will defiantly use again. Happy Spring friends at Casa Chiesi.

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