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Risotto Alla Milanese
(Risotto Milan-Style)
From La Vera Cucina: Traditional Recipes from the Homes and Farms of Italy, by Carlo Middione

Here, we have probably the granddaddy of all risotti. It is famous, and justifiably so. This is one of the few risotto dishes that is served on the same plate with other food, namely osso buco. And what a combination that is. I love Risotto alla Milanese as a first course when I am having meat and vegetables in abundance in other parts in the meal. It is rich enough on its own to be given the spotlight.


5 cups chicken or veal broth (prefer homemade) q.b. (you will have some left over)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp veal or beef marrow (see Note)
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 pound (about 1 cup) arborio rice, do not wash it
1/4 tsp saffron threads torn in pieces
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese q.b.


Bring the broth to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium-size saucepan and add the bone marrow. Add the onion and stir well. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir well. In about 1 minute you should be able to see a white spot in each grain of rice, and the rest of it will be translucent. This is called l'occhio, the eye. Sauté for about 2 minutes, so that the rice absorbs the fat and a barrier is created that prevents too much liquid from penetrating the grain, which would make it soft and mushy.

Add some salt and pepper and stir well. Adjust the heat to medium; it must be hot enough to cook at a nice pace, but not hot enough to burn the rice, and certainly not too cool or the rice will simply sit in warm liquid. Add the saffron threads, then add 2/3 cup simmering broth and stir well continuously. When the rice has absorbed almost all the broth, add about 1/3 cup simmering broth and continue to stir.

At no time during the cooking should the rice be swimming in liquid – it must be moist but not wet. Continue, adding as much of the remaining broth as necessary, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring all the while, until the rice is al dente, very firm to the tooth. There should be a definite crunch in the middle, although a slight one. The total cooking time should be 16 to 18 minutes – no more. The risotto should be creamy (but not with the grains damaged in any way), and when you push it up against the side of the pan, it should ooze back down very slowly like a mudslide, what the Italians call all'onda, like a wave.

Stir in about 1/2 cup of the cheese. Serve very hot with a spoon and a fork, and pass more cheese at the table.

Note: You can buy a beef bone at the butcher. If it is a crosscut, it will be easy to remove the marrow with a spoon. If the bone is at the joint and has a big knob, it may not have much usable marrow, but just in case it does, have the butcher saw it in half lengthwise for easy retrieval of the marrow.

Yield: Makes about 6 servings


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