Saffron and Leek Risotto

Leeks (‘porri’, in Italian) have thickening properties and a more complex flavor profile than onions, thanks to the cabbage hints of their upper leaves(1). When replacing onion for leek in a risotto, the resulting dish is creamier and with more depth. Saffron is traditional in Milanese style risotto, but also a spice that goes amazingly well with leek, bringing an additional element to this first course. The preparation of any kind of risotto is very reliable, as long as a few tips (below) are kept in mind.

(1) Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. 2nd edition (2004).

Saffron and Leek Risotto

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 25 minutes

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Saffron and Leek Risotto


  • 2/3 cup of risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
  • 2 leek stalks, washed and sliced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of butter
  • ½ glass of white wine, at room temperature
  • 3 cups of flavorful vegetable broth
  • ½ of a pouch of Italian saffron
  • ¼ cup of Parmigiano, grated
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • Salt


  1. Bring the stock to a gentle boil.
  2. In a second, larger, pot melt 1 tablespoon of butter (fig. 1).
  3. Add the leek to the butter (fig. 2) and roast it at medium heat until tender.
  4. Add the rice and toast it with the leek for 2-3 minutes (fig. 3).
  5. Add the wine and let it evaporate while stirring constantly. Reset the clock - the rice cooking time will be between 15 minutes (for Arborio) and 18 minutes (for Carnaroli).
  6. Add the vegetable broth, one ladle at a time, while stirring frequently (fig. 4). Ensure that both the risotto and the broth are kept simmering.
  7. When the rice is almost ready, dissolve the saffron in one ladle of broth and then add it to the pot. By the time the rice will be ready, the risotto will need to be quite soft, but without any excess liquid left in the pot.
  8. When the time is up, take the pot off the heat.
  9. Stir in ½ of the grated Parmigiano and the remaining ½ tablespoon of butter, adjust the salt if necessary.
  10. Let the risotto rest for 1 minute.
  11. Serve sprinkled with the rest of the Parmigiano and some ground black pepper.

10 thoughts on “Saffron and Leek Risotto”

  1. Great idea I've never tried to use the leek instead of onions, sounds pretty delicious I'll try it soon!

  2. Leek risotto really sounds very interesting and I loved your presentation. That's why I like visiting your blog so much…every time there is something new or an unusual combination to work with!

  3. purabi naha, thanks so much! I'm really glad Italian food brings you new ideas.

    Katherine, thanks for your comment – let me know how it goes! 🙂

  4. mmmmmmm how did I ALMOST miss this????? Saffron risotto is the very first thing I have ever cooked by myself (that's how much I love it)! And this looks fabulous. I will definitely try it with leeks next time, as I love leeks and have (strangely enough) never used them for risotto!!

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