North vs South and Milanese risotto with porcini mushrooms

Risotto alla milanese con porcini from Lombardy


On Italian TV at the moment there is a programme called “Benvenuti a Tavola”. It is based on the age-old North vs South rivalry which is surrounds pretty much everything in Italy and which ranges from the good natured to the downright nasty (some people going as far as wanting to take Italian citizenship from anyone born South of Rome).

I have lived in the North and the South of Italy, and although there are definitely differences, I think that the people are more similar than either side would care to admit.

I don’t like to join in on the fight, and usually say nothing when the verbal battle between North and South begins, but there is one subject about which I am passionate: FOOD.

All of Italy produces fantastic recipes and products. My personal favourites are almost all from the South: Mozzarella di bufala (Campania), ‘Nduja (Calabria), Taurasi wine (Campania), Salerno Anchovies (Campania), Limoncello (Campania) Pecorino Sardo (Sardinia), Cannoli (Sicily)… The list goes on, with the only Northern products getting a look in being Chianti (Tuscany), Balsamic Vinegar (Reggio Emilia) and Parma Ham (Reggio Emilia).

The same goes for recipes. However, there is one Northern recipe that I adore and which I make on a semi regular basis. It is also a hit with my Southern friends, despite its provenance – Milanese risotto with porcini mushrooms, a sticky, savoury, fragrant dish of rice, saffron, butter, mushrooms and one extra secret ingredient that I am about to reveal to you…

You will need (for 2 large portions):

– 1 heaped cup arborio rice
– A handful of porcini )preferably fresh or defrosted frozen, but dried will do at a pinch. If you use dried you will need to soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before starting and use the water for the risotto so as to keep all of the flavours.
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 clove garlic
– 1 generous knob of butter
– 2 tbsp grated grano padano or other hard Italian cheese
– 1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in a pint of warm water
– 1 glass of dry white wine
– 1 tsp of saffron
– and the secret ingredient, a few drops of truffle oil

1. Heat the oil and finely chopped garlic in a pan until the garlic begins to brown.

2. Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with a sheen of oil, then add a couple of ladlefuls of stock.

3. Stir constantly, making sure that as the stock cooks off you continue to add more. Bear in mind that the rice will need about 20 minutes all in all.

4. About five minutes in, add the saffron and the porcini, chopped into bits. Continue as before.

5. After a further five minutes, add a glass of white wine instead of stock, then continue as before.

6. If you find the stock is not enough, you can continue to add plain water until the rice is cooked. Do not add further stock or you risk making the dish too salty.

7. When  the risotto is “ondulato”, that is to say most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked but the dish is still fluid enough that you make gentle waves as you stir or move the pan, remove from the heat and stir in the butter, a few drops of truffle oil, then the grated cheese. This should thicken the dish to the perfect consistency.

8. Serve with the rest of the wine, as usual 😉

With love, from Italy


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