Lemon and saffron risotto with burrata cheese

June 1, 2020

The recipe below came about as a marriage of the lemon and saffron risotto (you can find on the blog), which I have been making with great joy. A kind of comfort food yet so elegant nourishing both body and soul. They are both naturally based on butter, parmesan or Grana Padano cheese as risotto is a staple northern Italian dish.

I can still remember when a dear friend of mine described this particular lemon risotto with burrata cheese she had in one of the Sicilian restaurants in Rome. Since then I’ve been having an idea in my head of making a beautifully rich yellow, lemony and creamy risotto at home too, but with a southern touch to it.

Risotto is actually a rare thing in Sicily and it is done slightly differently to it’s northern counterpart. Instead of butter olive oil is used, both for toasting the rice grains and the final step called  the “mantecura” (when butter is beaten into the risotto giving it its creamy consistency).

If you wish to turn this risotto into something really fancy, decorate it with a couple raw sweet red prawns (or even langoustines perhaps).


Serves 4:

  • 1.5-2 litres of good vegetable stock (hot)
  • 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 320 g of carnaroli rice (or other risotto rice like vialone nano for example)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped very finely
  • 125 ml of dry white wine
  • about 25-30 good quality saffron threads (don’t use powdered saffron if possible)

To finish the risotto (“mantecatura”):

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • juice of one lemon 
  • 250g of fresh burrata (plus some more for the garnish if you wish)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Heat up the olive oil in a heavy based pan on a medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until translucent but don’t colour the onion (for about 5-8 minutes).

Now add the rice into the pan and stir for a couple of minutes. All the grains should be coated with the mixture and warm (they will start changing colour).

Next pour in the wine that should cover the rice and let it evaporate completely.  Once the onion and rice are dry, add the saffron and start pouring in the stock in small amounts, even a ladleful or two at a time while continuously stirring the risotto base. When each addition of the stock has almost evaporated add another one (again a ladleful or two, never add too much).

Carry on cooking the risotto for 15-17 minutes on a medium heat (which is long enough for the rice to turn al dente) but slow down with adding the stock after 12-15 minutes.You don’t want the risotto to become too runny or wet, it should be creamy instead therefore pay attention to how much stock you are adding towards the end of the cooking process. 

Towards the end of cooking the risotto, taste it and season with salt.

Once the grains are ready and soft (al dente) turn the heat down.

Beat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir in the lemon juice (you don’t have to use all the lemon juice at once, it is better to add it gradually tasting all the time). Next add the basil leaves and separated into smaller pieces burrata cheese. Stir everything vigorously and give it a final taste. 

Allow the risotto to rest for a minute or two and serve decorating with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and a couple of basil leaves.