Let’s Use Leeks

I’ve been carb craving lately. So, when my organic veggie box showed up with tons o’ leeks, I instantly thought, “Risotto!” Yup, that’s where my brain goes. It goes to Italian rice dishes.

I found a “Risotto alla Milanese” in The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking which I modified to include leeks and omit anything I didn’t have on-hand. (Plus, some tweaking for personal tastes.) If you too have a box of leeks, this recipe will serve four easily:

Risotto alla Milanese

  • 4 T parsley, chopped
  • Zest of one lemon, grated
  • 1 t saffron strands
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 large or several small leeks, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1½ C Arborio rice
  • ⅔ C dry white wine
  • 4 C vegetable stock (I only had chicken stock available.)
  • Juice of half of that zested lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese shavings

Mix the parsley and lemon zest together in a bowl and set aside.

Put the saffron in a small bowl with 1 T boiling water and let stand while the saffron is infused. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and gently cook the leeks for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. The leeks should be soft.

Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes, until it becomes translucent. (Make sure that the rice is covered with the remnants of the butter.) Add the wine and saffron mixture and cook for several minutes, until all the wine is absorbed.

Add 1 cup of the stock to the pan and simmer gently until the stock is absorbed, stirring frequently. Gradually add more stock, a ladleful at a time, until the rice is tender. The rice might be tender and creamy before you’ve added all the stock, so add it slowly toward the end of the cooking time.

Right before you’re done, add the lemon juice and stir. Season the risotto with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle lavishly with shavings of Parmesan cheese and the parsley lemon mixture.


Pretty easy when you think about it. Add liquid, stir, add more liquid, stir. Next time, I’ll let the saffron sit longer. Because as you can see from the picture (even with my bad photography skills), I didn’t get that bright yellow saffron-infused look.

Risotto alla Milanese in a brown dish

The addition of lemon juice really brightens the dish up and cuts through the creaminess. One last note: Shave the Parm right before serving. The heat of the dish will melt it and make it less pretty for presentation (as you can see… those used to be very cute Parm shavings).


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