Starchy Saffron Sensation
Roasted Carrot and Saffron Risotto
Main, Starter or Side
My good friend Joanne brought me a tin of saffron from the Spice Souk in Dubai. The saffron was a deep, rich scarlet and so fragrant you could smell it through the tin it was stored in. That’s when I knew I needed a good recipe for this saffron.
Risotto is a go-to in MaiTai Tracy’s Kitchen, but this recipe has rocketed to the top to become our new favorite. (For some bizarre reason I have never posted our former favorite, Risotto with Green Onions, Mascarpone and Orange Zest. I’ll have to get that posted since Cara Cara oranges are in season.)
I like to use smaller carrots as they are sweeter and don’t take as long to roast. Try purple or rainbow carrots in addition to the orange ones for an explosion of color and flavor. Roasting time will depend on the size of the carrots. For this post, I ended up using two bunches of baby carrots as they were so small. I think 3 or 4 medium carrots or 2 bunches of smaller carrots will suffice. Try to get them the same size so they cook evenly.
Unless you make your own broth, I suggest adding Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken base to reduced sodium chicken broth to boost the chicken flavor. Speaking of boosting the flavor, add half the saffron to the warm broth infuse it with the saffron. I use a “big pinch” of saffron in this recipe to go big with the flavor. If you don’t like saffron, this recipe is not for you.
When I don’t have friends bringing me saffron from afar, I purchase Penzeys’ Coupe Grade Saffron from Spain, which is currently $12.39 for ½ gram jar. I also like the Trader Joe’s Spanish Saffron Threads which are about $6 for a small jar. Whichever saffron you use, don’t use that old jar that has been sitting in the cupboard since who knows when, and has definitely lost its flavor.
As far as which rice to use, Arborio is the most widely available risotto rice in the U.S., but I like Carnaroli, which, according to Fine Cooking, “is the preferred risotto rice in most regions in Italy except the Veneto” and “said to produce the creamiest risotto.”
I usually use white wine in risotto but I recently read a recipe that recommended Fino dry sherry in place of the wine for a nuttier flavor. If you don’t have the sherry, use a dry white wine.
Timing, risotto does take time as low and slow is the secret to a creamy risotto. It should take about 45 minutes to an hour for this recipe (not including prep time). I roasted the carrots and warmed the saffron infused broth, and then watched the news while the carrots were cooling so I could dice them before I started the risotto.
The roasted baby carrots combined with the subtle saffron and velvety mascarpone explodes with flavor resulting in a scrumptious creamy risotto that I hope will become your favorite too!
3 medium carrots or 2 bunches smaller carrots, peeled, tops removed (see note above)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
4 teaspoons Better than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base
1 cup (2 large or 3 medium) shallots, finely diced
1 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice
Big pinch saffron threads, divided
1 cup Fino dry sherry or dry white wine
2 tablespoons Mascarpone Cheese
2 oz. Parmigiana Reggiano or Pecorino cheese, freshly grated, plus additional 4 oz. for garnish
Fresh ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
Line a rimmed half baking sheet with foil (for ease in cleaning). Layer the carrots in the pan and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, a couple of grinds of freshly ground pepper (½ teaspoon) and chopped fresh thyme. Toss with spatula to coat and spread evenly in the pan so they caramelize rather than steam. Roast until the carrots are fork tender but not mushy. Depending on the size of the carrots, this should take about 20 to 30 minutes, more if they are thicker. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, coarse chop.
Also while the carrots are roasting, in a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and the remaining saffron, stirring to coat the rice with the olive oil, and sauté until the rice is slightly crunchy and translucent, do not over-cook. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the sherry or wine and stir until just evaporated.
Add broth, 1 cup at a time, stir until just evaporated and then add the next cup. If the rice is not al dente by the time you run out of broth, add either an additional cup of broth or sherry/wine or if you don’t have either, water. This should take about 40 minutes. Don’t rush the cooking, low and slow and lots of stirring results in the creamiest risotto.
Remove from heat. Fold in the coarsely chopped carrots, mascarpone, and the Parmesan cheese stirring until the cheese is melted. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.
Spoon into individual serving bowls, sprinkle with the reserved Parmigiana cheese. Serve immediately.
4 to 6 servings.
For more ideas, check out our other risotto recipes ….
Risotto with Italian Blue Goat Cheese and Xocopili Chocolate
Tom’s Perfect Pumpkin Tuscan Risotto