Risotto alla Milanese (adapted from Private Collection, Junior League of Palo Alto, 1980)

The recipe that perhaps best exemplifies the Junior Leaguer spirit of Private Collection is Risotto alla Milanese.  The author, we are assured, is a member of one of “Northern California’s oldest Italian families” with a “flair and elegance for entertaining”.   While the recipe is assured to be a “crowd pleaser”, making a proper risotto is no mean feat.  The ingredient list is short and simple but the preparation is labor intensive; getting it just right requires practice and careful attention.  Poorly executed risotto might easily be mistaken for soggy pilaf or overcooked Rice-a-Roni.  Risotto is also a dish that tends to elicit very strong feelings, and purists will be immediately put off by this recipe’s use of long grain rice instead of Arborio.  I will politely encourage those people to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

Risotto alla Milanese refers to a risotto prepared with saffron and appears to have originated in the mid-19th century.   Aside from the non-traditional choice of rice, Private Collection’s recipe hews close to the classic.  The instructions in the original are thorough and thoughtfully prepared, good enough such that even as a risotto first-timer I was able to achieve a rich and luxurious final product.  In my adaptation below I’ve tried to be equally precise, at least as per my personal experience.

Private Collection recommends serving Risotto alla Milanese alongside Chicken alla Margherita (from the same cookbook).  I did exactly that, on a single plate with a Caesar salad, and it worked out brilliantly.  Risotto alla Milanese will also pair well with baked or freshly grilled salmon, or even flank steak with a little bit of red wine reduction.  Regardless of the protein, a salad or simply prepared green vegetable is necessary to cut the richness and perhaps to give your arteries a rest.

Private Collection is no longer in print but readily available from Amazon, along with its 1984 sequel.   Think what you will about the Junior League, this is an excellent collection of recipes.  Instructions are lucid, ingredients are expensive but not difficult to find, and excepting a few outdated gelatin preparations these are all suitable for fancy company.    ¡disfruta!

Risotto alla Milanese (adapted from Private Collection, Junior League of Palo Alto, 1980)

    • Preparation: 15 min
    • Cooking: 35 min
    • Ready in: 50 min



    1. Melt 5 tbsp of butter in a large dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes until onion is soft and translucent but not browned.
    2. Add wine. Raise heat to medium and cook until wine has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
    3. Add rice, salt, and white pepper. Stir in the buttery onion goodness until every grain of rice is well-coated with butter.
    4. Add saffron and 2 cups of chicken broth and continue cooking until broth is almost entirely evaporated, stirring occasionally.
    5. Reduce heat back to medium low. Over the next 20-25 minutes add a couple of tablespoons of broth at a time and cook, uncovered, until broth is evaporated. During this time you need to be constantly stirring and scraping the rice down from the walls of the dutch oven. When the risotto starts to reach the consistency you want stop adding broth, reduce heat, and continue stirring.
    6. After about 20-25 minutes of cooking the risotto should be creamy and luxurious and the rice should be a little bit al dente. When you have the texture you want, remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the remaining 3 tbsp of butter and a few tablespoons of the freshly grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

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