Memories of my grandmother’s Milanese Risotto

My grandfather, the Titin was his nickname, I never met him but he lives in his memories thanks to family tales. A particular character, an adventurer, he was only a twentieth-century boy when he left Italy.

Embarking in Genoa in search of fortune over the ocean, he did all the mason, the hunter of skins in Canada, and who knows what else. But he always had his head on his Lake Maggiore, where he was born, and he loved his land and its traditions. Having returned to the house with Giuditta, he opened the Bettolino, a trattoria bar in the village, in Angera.

Giuditta is a great cook! Memorable fillets of perch or lavarello, his hare in salmì then … but with risottos gave all of itself.

On Sunday, at noon, the world fell, the Milanese risotto was on the table. Delays were not allowed, we did not eat, the smell of saffron is still fixed in my mind.

A simple recipe at first sight very easy, but that hides a thousand pitfalls. One of the few recipes to have a creation date: 1574. It all began with the marriage of a daughter of a glassmaker who worked on the construction of the cathedral, Valerio di Fiandra.

His colleagues added saffron powder, which was used to color glass, to rice. Saffron rice was already known in the Middle Ages but from that marriage it became one of the traditional dishes of Milan.

Recipe of the Milanese risotto

It all starts with the butter that we use to melt the white onion in the pan along with a little ‘marrow (the same of ossobuco to be clear) that will give the risotto a very good flavor.

Add the Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice, both from the area between Milan and Vercelli. Leave the others alone. Let’s bring it to light toasting, 1 or two minutes enough, let’s blend with the white wine and then add the meat broth! Better if with nerves, vegetarians are not allowed.

Add the broth a ladle at a time and it must always be wet. At ¾ of cooking we put saffron, that of L’Aquila is the best but I tasted a fantastic of Affile in the Simbruini Mountains. Dissolve the pistils in very little warm water, will give the gold color to the risotto.

At the end of cooking, when the fire is off, add a knob of cold butter and Parmesan. We quickly cover and close with the lid for a couple of minutes, then we serve.

It’s a dish that does not wait for anyone to be eaten right away and if you go ahead, make us supplì.

The Titin had the vineyard near his Lake, produced a great Bonarda and a screaming Nebbiolo; now someone has picked up the witness, try them!