Dinner/ fish and seafood/ italian/ rice/ Side dish

Saffron risotto with grilled salmon and zucchini

6 July 2021 By Aleksandra

This saffron risotto with salmon and zucchini is a simple and impressive dish. It’s quick enough to make for a weeknight dinner but you can also serve it for a special occasion. I paired this saffron risotto (risotto alla Milanese) with fish – this saffron-flavored rice works especially well with salmon. Grilled zucchini adds crunch and more color to the dish.

Saffron risotto with grilled salmon and zucchini on a white plate.

Saffron risotto (risotto alla Milanese)

Saffron risotto, or risotto alla Milanese in Italian, is a simple risotto made with saffron and parmesan cheese. It comes from the city of Milan and the surrounding region of Lombardy. It has a beautiful bright yellow color, an unique flavor and makes a great side dish to serve with fish or seafood.

Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make this dish:

  1. Fish – I used salmon. Its flavor works perfectly with saffron and its color looks beautiful on the bright yellow rice. You can use any other fish, also white-fleshed fish like cod or halibut.
  2. Zucchini – crunchy side dish adds another texture to the dish.
  3. Saffron risotto – beautifully-hued bright yellow rice side dish.

To make saffron risotto you will need:

  • Saffron – there is no substitute for this spice, it has a pretty unique flavor, but you can just omit it and make a simple parmesan risotto if you don’t have it on hand. If you want just bright yellow color for your risotto, you can add a pinch of turmeric.
  • Rice – you need to use risotto rice, like arborio or carnaroli rice. Other rice varieties are not suitable for this recipe! These rice types have a lot of starch on their surface, which makes the risotto creamy.
  • Cheese – add grated Parmesan cheese for a milder flavor or if you like sheep’s milk cheeses you can add pecorino. I really like it with pecorino cheese.
  • Broth – you can use vegetable or chicken broth. Water with good-quality bouillon cubes will also do!
  • Shallots – you can use small onion instead. I prefer shallots because of their mild flavor and soft texture, they also cook quicker.
  • Garlic – must be fresh!
  • White wine – just use any white wine you like to drink. It must be a dry wine – it needs to balance the richness of the risotto. If you don’t have wine on hand or you don’t cook with wine, you can easily substitute it with broth and a small amount of lemon juice to taste.
Labeled ingredients for saffron risotto with grilled salmon and zucchini.

What is saffron?

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is made of the threads (stigmas) of the saffron crocus flower. For each gram of saffron, 200–600 hand-picked threads are needed, which means that up to 200 flowers are needed for each gram of saffron. The good news is, just a little goes a long way so you only need a pinch of saffron for this recipe! An important thing when using saffron – always dissolve it in some liquid (for example broth). If you add the threads directly to this dish – the risotto won’t be uniformly colored and rather dull yellow than bright yellow.

How does saffron taste like?

Saffron has a floral, earthy, strong flavor. For me, it tastes a little bit like honey and eggs. It’s hard to describe so you just really have to try it to find out if it’s for you! I must admit, I wasn’t a fan of it at first, but then I got to like it! You can read more on saffron here.

Step by step instructions

Broth with saffron in a pot. Sauteed onions and garlic in a pot.

STEP 1: Add the saffron and broth into a medium pot and heat until very hot, then leave it on the burner over low heat to keep it hot.

STEP 2: Heat the oil in a medium/large pot, add the shallots, cook over low heat for about 2-3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Sauteed onions and rice in pot. White wine is being added to a pot.

STEP 3: Add the rice and cook over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes. All rice grains should be coated in oil and their edges should be slightly translucent.

STEP 4: Add the wine and cook until it’s almost evaporated.

Broth is being added to a pot with rice. Broth and rice in a pot.

STEP 5: Add the first portion of the broth – about 1/4-1/3 cup.

STEP 6: All the rice grains should be covered with broth, make sure there are none left on the sides of the pot. Let the rice cook in the broth without stirring.

Saffron risotto is being cooked in a pot.

STEP 7: It will start to look a little bit dry.

STEP 8: When this happens, start stirring constantly until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Add the next portion of broth and cook the rice as described until the rice is cooked through but still has a little bit of bite to it (is cooked al dente). The whole process of adding broth and stirring can last about 20-25 minutes. You can use more or less broth than I did, it all depends on the burner’s heat.

Saffron risotto and grated cheese in a pot.

STEP 9: Add the Parmesan cheese, stir until combined and melted.

STEP 10: Take the pot off the heat and season your risotto with salt and pepper to taste. The risotto should be creamy – it shouldn’t be too runny but it also can’t be too thick. If you run your spatula through the risotto, it should flow slowly to fill in the space.

Zucchini and salmon fillets on a grill pan.

While the risotto is cooking – grill the salmon and zucchini on the grill pan (you can also cook them in a regular pan).

STEP 11: Season the zucchini with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and grill the zucchini slices for about 2 minutes on each side until browned. Don’t overcook the zucchini, it should be still crunchy.

STEP 12: Heat another tablespoon of oil, cook the salmon over medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side, until the fish is cooked through (to your preferred doneness).

Safe cooking temperature for salmon: cook it to 145°F (63°C) or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.

Serve the salmon with risotto and zucchini.

Enjoy!

How to serve it:

This flavorful saffron risotto pairs perfectly with fish, seafood, or chicken. I like to serve it with grilled salmon and zucchini like shown in the photos, but there are more delicious options for you to try:

Tips for the best risotto

  • Keep your broth hot all the time while the risotto is cooking. Adding cold broth to the pot will result in a longer cooking time, as the broth will need to be brought to a boil each time.
  • Serve your risotto on warm plates. The best risotto should flow off the spoon like a wave. When it gets cold, it loses this consistency. It’s best to serve it straight from the pot and spoon it onto warm plates. You can warm your plates in the oven – just keep them a few minutes in the oven preheated to 210°F/100°C.
  • Don’t overcook your risotto, the rice grains should still have a bite to them!
  • Stir the risotto often, but not too oft (it will cool the rice), that’s why I like to cook it submerged in broth for a while and then when it gets a little bit dry – stir stir stir! Make sure your rice doesn’t stick to the pot.
  • Don’t add too much broth at once – 1/4 cup to 1/3 is perfect.

No-stir risotto

There is an alternative preparation method of this risotto, popularized by a well-known chef Kenji Lopez-Alt. It’s a no-stir risotto, which saves a lot of your time, but it is slightly less creamy than the traditional recipe (in my opinion). You will need only 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) broth when making risotto this way.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Add rice to the broth and stir several times with a spoon, strain through a fine-mesh strainer, then reserve the broth (!). Add the saffron to the broth. Cook the onion, garlic, rice, and wine as described in the recipe.
  • Add the broth (it can be cold), stir well, bring to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked through.
  • Remove the pot from the heat, add the cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste, serve.

Storing and reheating:

Risotto reheats very well. It will be thicker so add a splash of broth or water to dilute it. Keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.

More risotto recipes:

A close up picture of saffron risotto with grilled salmon and zucchini.

Did you make this recipe? RATE THE RECIPE or tell me in the COMMENTS how you liked it! You can also add a photo of your dish. It would make me very happy and will help other readers. Thank you!!

Saffron risotto with salmon and zucchini

Saffron risotto served with grilled salmon and zucchini
Pin This Recipe! SAVE THIS RECIPE
Saffron risotto with grilled salmon and zucchini on a white plate.
Print Recipe
No ratings yet
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 702kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

for the salmon and zucchini:

  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 salmon fillets about 11oz/300g
  • 1 teaspoon French or Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons frying oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

for the saffron risotto:

  • 1 tablespoon frying oil
  • 2 small shallots or 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup risotto rice 100g
  • ¼ cup dry white wine 60 ml
  • 3 cups vegetable broth 720 ml
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 heaped tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese or pecorino
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

Prepare all the ingredients:

  • Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, season with herbs, salt, and pepper on all sides.
  • Cut the zucchini into thick slices.
  • Finely chop shallots and garlic.

Cook the risotto:

  • Add the saffron and broth into a medium pot and heat until very hot, then leave it on the burner over low heat to keep it hot.
  • Heat the oil in a medium/large pot, add the shallots, cook over low heat for about 2-3 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Add the rice and cook over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes. All rice grains should be coated in oil and their edges should be slightly translucent.
  • Add the wine, cook until it’s almost evaporated.
  • Add the first portion of the broth – about 1/4-1/3 cup. All the rice grains should be covered with broth, make sure there are none left on the sides of the pot. Let the rice cook in the broth without stirring. When it starts to cook a little bit dry, start stirring constantly until almost all the liquid is evaporated. Add the next portion of broth and cook the rice as described until the rice is cooked through but still has a little bit of bite to it (is cooked al dente). The whole process of adding broth and stirring can last about 20-25 minutes. You can use more or less broth than I did, it all depends on the burner’s heat.
  • Add the Parmesan cheese, stir until combined and melted. Take the pot off the heat and season your risotto with salt and pepper to taste.
  • The risotto should be creamy – it shouldn’t be too runny but it also can’t be too thick. If you run your spatula through the risotto, it should flow slowly to fill in the space.

Cook the zucchini and salmon:

  • While the risotto is cooking – grill the salmon and zucchini on the grill pan (you can also cook them in a regular pan).
  • Season the zucchini with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and grill the zucchini slices for about 2 minutes on each side until browned. Don't overcook the zucchini, it should be still crunchy.
  • Heat another tablespoon of oil, cook the salmon over medium heat for about 4 minutes on each side, until the fish is cooked through (to your preferred doneness).
  • Serve the salmon with risotto and zucchini.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Instead of salmon, you can use any other fish, also white-fleshed fish like cod or halibut.
  • Saffron – there is no substitute for this spice, it has a pretty unique flavor, but you can just omit it to make a simple parmesan risotto if you don’t have it on hand. If you want just bright yellow color for your risotto, you can add a pinch of turmeric.
  • Wine – If you don’t have wine on hand or you don’t cook with wine, you can easily substitute it with broth or a small amount of lemon juice to taste.
  • Storing and reheating: Risotto reheats very well. It will be thicker so add a splash of broth or water to dilute it. Keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months.
  • Tips for the best risotto:
    • Keep your broth hot all the time while the risotto is cooking. Adding cold broth to the pot will result in a longer cooking time, as the broth will need to be brought to a boil each time.
    • Serve your risotto on warm plates. The best risotto should flow off the spoon like a wave, when it gets cold, it loses this consistency. It’s best to serve it straight from the pot and transfer it to warm plates. You can warm your plates in the oven – just keep them a few minutes in the oven preheated to 210°F/100°C.
    • Don’t overcook your risotto, the rice grains should still have a bite to them!
    • Stir the risotto often, but not too oft (it will cool the rice), and make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot.
    • Don’t add too much broth at once – 1/4 cup to 1/3 is perfect.
  • Calories = 1 serving (1/2 of the recipe). This is only an estimate!
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword fish with saffron risotto, grilled salmon recipe, saffron risotto recipe

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating




The maximum upload file size: 1 MB. You can upload: image. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here