risotto-milanese-0037I’m in Naples right now, in my home town to spend the Easter holidays among familiars. Weather and family time are not the only reasons for me to be happy to be back, as you can imagine food is a big part of my life and I’m now more than excited to taste Italian tomatoes,  mozzarella, Neapolitan pizza, wine…. It’s my second day here but I might have already tried all these ingredients.

risotto-milan-0055A couple of days before leaving for Italy I made a risotto that probably here in Italy wouldn’t be accepted as such. Let me explain you why.

Widespread in numerous versions throughout the country, Risotto for us southerners is not as popular and appealing as in north of Italy. We are huge “pastasciuttari”, a familiar term for pasta lover, in dialect. Sure, we cook rice every now and then. “Someone” told us that it wouldn’t be good for us to eat “white” pasta every day, that whole grain rice are better sources of complex carbs, B vitamins, minerals and above all fiber. Although we don’t take these nutritious facts too seriously, we take a few breaks from pasta (a few in a year, I mean).

Nothing more than the normal rice deprived of its skins (husk), whole rice, also know as brown rice because of the color, is far more nutritious than the white one. It is rich in fiber, first of all, which in refined white rice disappears completely. It’s detoxifying, slightly laxative, gluten-free, highly digestible and with a good amount of minerals (lowered by almost 70% in refined white rice).

Brown rice is great in terms of nutritional value but honestly not the best type of rice to make a classic Italian risotto. In a typical risotto the starch from the rice is released during the cooking to create a sort of a gel that binds the grains together and provides a creamy texture to the dish.saffronI pre-heated (roasted)  the rice in a pan with butter and onion and gradually added the liquid (broth) to keep a constant moisture balance. Just like for a classic risotto. However, my brown rice did not released its starch and I came up with a risotto-non-risotto, not creamy but rather “crunchy”, instead.

Saffron turned its brown into a beautiful vibrant gold, the reasonable amount of butter instead of olive made it flavorful and robust. A beautiful dish, different but beautiful and delectable. My way to lay the groundwork for the coming pasta and pizza days.

risotto-milan-0045I’m now ready to dive into a sea of chocolate eggs and Italian cheeses. I got to honor family traditions :).

What are you up for to celebrate the Easter holidays?

Brown Rice Saffron Risotto


  • 1 medium onion very finely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup arborio vialone nano, or carnaroli rice, or other medium- or short-grain Italian rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups vegetable broth; more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Parsley chopped (optional).


  • In a saucepan cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the rice and cook it over medium heat for a couple oof minutes. Add the wine, 2 cups of broth, and the saffron. Turn the heat to high until the broth comes to a simmer.
  • Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Place the saffron in a cup and pour the warm broth in it. Stir and wait 2 minutes. Add this cup of "saffron broth" to the rice and keep cooking, stirring. Add the rest of broth and cook until the rice is cooked.The risotto must be fairly tight, not soupy.
  • When the rice is ready, stir in the cheese. Off the heat, stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with more Parmesan and parsley.

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  1. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to
    be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  2. How come I never thought of using brown rice for risotto? I eat it often alone, in soup or mix with white rice. Thanks for sharing this healthy twist of the classic dish!

  3. Naples?! I wish I read this first. Sorry about my other comment. I’m so happy you’re back home there, wishing you a brilliant time with your family! I remember we nearly wanted to go to Naples while we were staying in Vienna for awhile and we wanted to go somewhere south. Ah, I can’t simply wait to taste Italian wines and visit the beautiful markets as I go to Turino! It’s going to be an exciting culinary adventure! What a beautiful plate of that saffron risotto, I’ve also been using different grains to make risotto and tried using farro. It turned out as a filling dish! Now I want to make some risotto and I still have organic pumpkin puree leftovers. Perhaps I can make some pumpkin risotto tomorrow with leftover produces such as fennel 🙂 Miam!

    1. Hi Rika, I’m happy to know you’re going to visit my country soon. Unfortunately I’ll be already back in London when you’ll be here… Anyhow, Napoli is not close to Milan at all 🙂 I’ve never been there and have only visited Genoa. I spent there just one day and was not particularly impressed (I’m sure it’s a nice but I did not explore it enough). I really liked “Le Cinque Terre” instead, 85 km south from Genoa. In north of Italy I’ve visited Tuscany, it’s a very beautiful region with many beautiful cities. I can give you more info about Tuscany and Le Cinque Terre but unfortunately I can’t say much about Turin and Milan 🙁 Feel free to contact me in private if you have any questions!

  4. This risotto looks fantastic and the color is divine!
    I had no idea you are from Naples, Daniela.
    An amazing and magical place, full of beauty with an extraordinary cultural heritage.

  5. Love this! Brown rice is really difficult to make more “soupy” or creamy, so I suppose you just have to continue to add more broth, a bit of potato starch (or some other starch that’s healthier), & hope that it gets creamy! Actually, I think you could grate that Japanese root that is really sticky into the risotto to give it a nice creamy & more stuck together texture.

    Fun food fact: brown rice used to be the rice of peasants & cheaper than white rice, which was refined & more expensive to make. Now white rice is readily available to anyone & brown rice is seen as this more healthy & expensive commodity!

  6. marvelous risotto…looks so beautiful with the golden tint from saffron and can imagine the delectable flavors of this dish….you have explained the steps so perfectly…we are confident to try some for lunch today, brown rice is a definite superior than white ones…so good to see a risotto with it,thanks so much for sharing…Have A Great Family Time With Loads Of Fun!!! 🙂