This risotto appears in different guises on restaurant menus and in cookery books. Saffron is the key ingredient and traditionally it should also have bone marrow – I've also seen it with a slice of Italian sausage such as cotechino or zampone sat in the centre.
Don't be tempted by cheap saffron when you go to Middle Eastern countries and think you are coming home with a bargain; it should be deep red and the strands should be dry and tight. Powdered is OK, but it's worth splashing out on the real thing in this case.
200g carnaroli rice
3-4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
A couple of generous pinches of saffron strands
3tbsp red wine
750ml-1ltr hot chicken stock
2tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Infuse half the saffron in the hot chicken stock for 10 minutes or so.
Gently cook the shallots in a knob of butter for 2-3 minutes without colouring, stirring every so often. Add the rice and stir on a low heat for a minute.
Add the rest of the saffron along with the wine and stir for another minute or so, then add a quarter of the stock and lightly season with salt and pepper.
Stir every so often on a low heat until the rice has absorbed the stock; continue adding the stock and stirring until the rice is cooked but still has a bit of a bite. The risotto should not be too dry, but a sloppy, spooning consistency. Stir in the rest of the butter and Parmesan and, if necessary, season again with salt and pepper and add a little more stock. To serve, spoon the risotto onto plates or into bowls.
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