Milanese risotto: its birth between history and legends

It is the main dish in the Milanese culinary tradition, an icon of gastronomic art, famous throughout the world: the Milanese risotto

 

History and legend mix together in a dish like its ingredients to give life to what is considered the symbol of Milanese culinary art and tradition: the Milanese risotto. The origins of one of the most famous first courses in Italy and abroad are rather uncertain.

According to some legends, in fact, the birth of the Milanese recipe could be traced back to Sicily and to the traditions of medieval kosher cuisine, where saffron rice was already cooked. From Sicily, the dish was then exported to the North by some Jewish merchants or – according to others – by a Sicilian emigrated cook.

It would indeed be Southern Italy the first place where spice pistils came with the entry of the Moors in Sicily. The etymology of saffron is in fact Arabic (zaafran) and calls the colour “asfar“, that is yellow, which is released during cooking.

Milanese risotto

The history of the origin of Milanese risotto

In truth, the most famous history about the origin of Milanese risotto dates back to 1574 by Zafferano. The story is attested in a manuscript found at the Trivulziana library. According to what is said, Zafferano was a disciple of the Belgian master glassmaker Valerio of Flanders and he had the habit of playing with the colours of the palette adding saffron to make them more brilliant. During the wedding of the master’s daughter, he added it to the classic butter risotto served at that time giving it more flavour and more colour. That golden yellow given to the dish, symbol of prosperity and richness, was appreciated by the diners thus baptising the birth of the Milanese risotto or saffron risotto.

Today it is one of the most famous dishes in Italy and abroad. There are many tourists coming to Milan to taste the Milanese risotto with osso buco, in addition to other traditional dishes such as the famous Milanese cutlet, cassoeula, mondeghili, rustin negàa, Milanese tripe, Milanese zuccotto and, during Christmas, the traditional panettone prepared according to the ancient recipe.

Milanese risotto according to tradition

The Milanese risotto is generally served with osso buco in gremolada in taverns and typical restaurants in Milan. Bone with marrow is in fact used to prepare a good meat broth with which to cook rice.

Milanese risotto dish

We should choose the prince of rice, Carnaroli rice, which is the most suitable for risotto. The large size of the long grain and the high percentage of amylose guarantee excellent cooking resistance and low stickiness.

And with leftover Milanese risotto, Milanese people have also created a leftover recipe, the jumpy rice.

Author: Marialuisa La Pietra

 

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