(photo: our saffron “threads” just prior to adding to the cooking broth for Risotto Milanese)
Saffron (or Zafferano) has always had a special place in my heart; more specifically, it’s had a special place in my memory. I associate saffron with my childhood and the yellow arborio rice my mother prepared for me on special occasions (viz., any time I asked for it and we happened to have some “saffron dust” busta <or envelope> in the house). The variety of saffron my mother used to prepare risotto was packaged in a small yellow and red envelope and was supplied by Zia Teresa shop from Calabria. And while I enjoyed the wonderful flavor that saffron gave my mother’s risotto what I really enjoyed seeing was how the saffron dust would infuse a yellow/red color to the cooking liquid.
I still make saffron risotto and I count it as one of my favorites next to the spinach
and zucchini varieties. My taste in saffron has also “grown up” and I now look for whole strand saffron to flavor my dishes (although much costlier than the sub standard saffron dust). Saffron from the Navelli plain region in Abruzzo (central Italy) is considered to be some of the best in the world. The saffron plant was introduced to Italy between the 13th and 14th centuries from Andalusia (southern Spain) via Domenican friars. The plant is native to southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece, but Italians have been cooking with saffron for 600+ years!
We recently sampled some fine Spanish saffron under the brand name, “La Mancha” and it compares very nicely to the more expensive Italian variety mentioned above. “La Mancha” Spanish saffron is hand harvested from the crocus sativus flower and is some of the best “value priced” saffron on the planet (1 gram will cost you less $8.50, including a custom discount code for Scordo.com readers, see below).
I use saffron in my cooking liquid for “Milanese” style risotto and also add a bit to my mussels and spicy tomato wine sauce
. For risotto Milanese follow our spinach risotto recipe
and omit the spinach (just add about 1 tablespoon of saffron to 7-8 cups of chicken stock or hot, filtered, water for the cooking liquid).