Cooking Class: A bright Italian dish for a cold winter’s evening

Saffron has long been celebrated as the world’s prized and most expensive spice.


While it is most commonly associated with Spain and the Middle East it has also been part of Italy’s culinary history for thousands of years. The spice, which is made from the dried stigmas of crocus flowers, offers a brilliant yellow colour and pungent, earthy flavour. Nowhere in Italy is the use of saffron more engrained than Sicily where the culinary cultural influences of the Greeks, Phoenicians and Arab spans millennia.


This dish makes for a simple meal that is sure to add warmth and colour to a dreary winter evening.


As for the wine pairing, saffron based dishes are best served with crisp white wines with some aromatic intensity. International favourites such as Rhone (France) Viognier, Loire (France) Chenin Blanc and White Rioja (Spain) all make good selections but when in Rome, or in this case Sicily, stick with a local selection.


Lady Lola Pinot Grigio Moscato — the latter grape also brought to Sicily via the Middle East — combines the delicacy and elegance of Pinot Grigio and the attractive floral fragrance of Muscat. It’s an ideal choice for this dish but its lingering sweetness will also let it carry through dessert.


Lady Lola’s designer bottle will also add elegance to any dinner table setting. It can also be reused a number of ways.


Once the wine is finished, clean it out and fill it with colourful sand for a decorative piece, use it as a flower vase or fill it with herbs (cleaned, dried) and olive oil to make a simple and elegant olive oil infusion.


Saffron Risotto


4 Servings

Prep time: Under 30 Minutes

Total time: Under 30 Minutes


  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 6 threads saffron
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, finely grated


Directions: Place stock in a pot along with saffron. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes to help infuse the saffron flavour into the broth. Add olive oil, tumeric and onion to another pot; set over medium-low heat. Sauté until onion is soft and translucent. Raise heat to medium. Add the rice. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes stirring frequently. Add the wine. When the wine is mostly evaporated add a ladle of warm stock. Cook until stock is mostly evaporated. Repeat until all the stock has been used. Add the Parmesan and stir. Serve immediately or use the risotto to make arancini (risotto balls).


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