Italian Cuisine Archives | Happy Bellyfish

Recipe Categories: Italian Cuisine

Risotto Milanese: Traditional Italian Saffron Rice

Risotto alla Milanese, which means ‘rice in the style of Milan‘ is one of the most famous dishes of the Northern Italian cuisine in the world. The main secret ingredient of this speciality is saffron that creates its vivid yellow colour and unique flavour.

According to one of the legends about the history of Risotto Milanese, the idea of using saffron for a rice plate came to mind of an assistant of a famous painter Valerio di Fiandra in the middle of the XVIII century. When the painter was working on the great windows of the Milan Cathedral, known as Duomo, his assistant used to add a bit of saffron to the colours to make them appear more vivid. One day by mistake (or as a joke) the assistant added some saffron in a big pot where the rice for painter’s daughter wedding dinner was cooking. Surprisingly the dinner was not ruined, on the contrary, it was the day when a new milanese dish was born. Today you can find this yellow risotto in every Lombard restaraunt as a separate dish or as a side dish for ossobuco – another traditional dish made of veal shank slices with marrow bone in the center.

You can easily make Risotto alla Milanese at home following our recipe. We offer you the original Italian version, but if you want to make your dish lighter you can use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter, and vegetable stock in place of meat stock.

For 4 persons:

  • Carnaroli or Arborio rice – 320 gr
  • Saffron threads – 1/2 tsp
  • Meat stock – 4 cups (you can also use chicken or vegetable stock)
  • Butter – 100 gr
  • Onion – 1 medium-sized
  • White wine – 1/2 cup (you can replace it with vinegar)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmiggiano Reggiano) – 1/2 cup

Step 1. First of all if you use saffron in threads, put them into a 1/2 cup of water for a few hours. If you use saffron powder you can use it straight away.

Step 2. Prepare or heat the stock. Add salt if needed (usually you don’t add salt directly in risotto, only through the stock, so it should be salted enough) and keep it hot while you are cooking.

Step 3. Heat 70 gr of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add minced onion and cook until it becomes translucent but not browned. Add the rice and cook until lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Add wine and cook until it is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Step 4. Add 1/2 cup of hot stock and stir the rice. Now you can reduce the heat to medium-low and cover your pan. After 2-3 minutes, when the stock is absorbed, add more stock and stir again. Continue cooking adding the stock every 3-5 minutes. Wait until the liquid is absorbed before adding more! After about 13-15 minutes add the water with saffron threads (or saffron powder) and stir well. Continue cooking for a few minutes more according to the time indicated on the rice package (usually the total is about 15-17 minutes).

Step 5. Turn off the heat, add the rest of butter and grated parmesan cheese. Your Milanese Risotto is ready!

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Easy Sesame Spinach Recipe (Video Recipe)

Spinach needs no introduction – it is an officially acknowledged super food: rich in protein, fiber, plenty of vitamins, iron and calcium. When the season comes we cook it non-stop and we are always on a hunt for new spinach recipes, that can add a special twist to already familiar ingredient! This vegetable tastes fantastic in pies in quiches, can be added to pastas and soups, or even be a delicious starter on its own.

Our today’s special sesame recipe is inspired by Asian cuisine, but it features ingredients from all over the world: sesame seeds, white poppy seeds and  even balsamic vinegar. It presents a unique combination of strong flavours, that can be achieved without any unnecessary additives to the dish. It also combines qualities of comfort food and an “addictive” crunchy note, that go so well together, that it is impossible to stop eating it!


– 1 cup fresh spinach

– 2 cloves garlic

– 2 tsp white poppy seeds

– 2 tsp sesame seeds

– 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

– olive or mustard oil for frying

–  salt to taste


  1. Peel garlic and shop it into small chunks. Don’t chop it to small, it shouldn’t burn or disappear on the pan.
  2. Heat the oil and add garlic. Fry for about one minute, be careful, the garlic shouldn’t burn.
  3. Add entire spinach to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure that it doesn’t overcook. If spinach is cooked for too long it looses its taste and a pleasant texture.
  4. When spinach is ready, transfer it to a plate and mix with 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar. If you prefer, you can also use a regular vinegar.
  5.  Roast the seeds: heat the pan over medium pan and roast sesame and poppy seeds. Stir continuously, so that the seeds do not burn.  In this recipe we are using white poppy seeds, that is also called Asian poppy seeds. If it is difficult to fin you can also opt for black poppy seeds, but it will look and taste different.
  6. Add seeds on the top of the spinach.

Your delicious and easy sesame spinach is ready!



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Eggplant Parmigiana (Parmigiana di Melanzane)

Parmigiana is a typical Italian dish made with fried sliced eggplants, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. The origin of the dish is claimed by even three Italian regions: Emilia Romagna, Campania and Sicily. Contrary to what is widely believed, the name Parmigiana does not mean “eggplants in Parma style” or “eggplants with Parmesan cheese”, but instead it derives from a Sicilian word “Parmiciana”, which means the set of wooden strips, that forms persiennes (shutters), like the way that eggplant slices are put in parmigiana.

  • eggplants – 4 medium-sized

  • tomato purée (passata di pomodoro) – 800 gr

  • basil – a few leaves

  • grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) – 80 g

  • mozzarella cheese – 300 gr

  • garlic – 1 clove

  • salt

  • olive oil 

Step 1. Slice the eggplants horizontally about 1 cm thick, place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest for about 1 hour. Drain and rinse the eggplant, put them on paper towels and leave aside until they become dry.

Step 2. Meanwhile prepare the tomato sauce: heat 2 spoons of extra-virgin olive oil with a clove of garlic, then add tomato purée and cook for 30 minutes on slow fire. At the end add some salt and basil leaves.

Step 3. Fry dried eggplants in olive oil 3-4 minutes on both sides.

Step 4. Place 1 small spoon of oil and 2 spoons of tomato sauce in a large pan. Than place a few slices of eggplant in a way to cover the entire surface of the pan. Place a thin layer of tomato sauce, than a layer of slices of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing with eggplants – tomato sauce – Parmesan cheese.

Step 5. Place the pan in the oven (preheated at 200°) for 40 minutes, until the top of the dish becomes golden brown.

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Image Credit: David Pitts

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How to Make Almond Milk

Did you knowhow easy it is to take almond milk? Try our traditional Italian recipe, which was shared by a Sicilian expert Oksana.

  • almond – 100 gr
  • cold water – 300 gr
  • sweetener of choice (optional)* – 50-100 gr 

Step 1. Skin the almonds: bring a pot of water to boil and place your almonds in the boiling water for not more than 1 minute. Drain the almonds in a strainer, rinse them in cold water and dry them with a paper towel. Squeeze the almond form their skin with your fingers.

Step 2. Mix almonds with your sweetener (if you use one) and process them in a blender, until almonds become a powder

Step 3. Add water in process in y blender for a few minutes, until the mixture becomes thick like a milk shake

Your almond milk is ready!

*As a sweetener you can use: sugar, stevia, honey, jaggery etc.

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Asparagus Sauce

Try our new delicious recipe for asparagus sauce, which takes just 10 minute to prepare!

  • onion – 1 mid-sized
  • garlic – 1 clove
  • butter or ghee – 1 tbsp
  • full-fat cream – 100 ml
  • balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp
  • black pepper – 1 tsp
  • brown sugar or sweetener of your choice – 1 tsp
  • salt – to taste 

Step 1. Chop the onion and garlic into small pieces and fry in a hot pan in ghee or butter, until golden

Step 2. Add sugar, salt, pepper, stir well and cook for a 1 minute

Step 3. Add cream and bring to boil

Step 4. Add vinegar and shimmer for 3 minutes while stirring


Your perfect and easy asparagus sauce is ready!

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Image credit: bowenmurphy

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Pasta with Saffron

This recipe is provided by our recipes ambassador Ekaterina Panteleeva

  • spaghetti – 320 gr
  • zucchini – 300 gr
  • onion – 1 medium-sized
  • shrimps – 300 gr
  • saffron – 1/4 tsp (0.125 gr)
  • cream (30%) – 100 gr
  • extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • salt, pepper – to taste 

Step 1. Chop the onion into small pieces and fry in a hot pan for 3-4 minutes.

Step 2. Cut the zucchini into squares, add to the pan, add salt an pepper to taste and fry for 10 minutes, stirring it occasionally.

Step 3. Add peeled shrimps to the pan, fry for another 3-4 minutes (if you use frozen shrimps they should be de-frosted, you can do it by putting them into hot water for 3 minutes).

Step 4. Mix saffron in 1/4 cup of warm water and add it to the pan. Reduce the flame and cook for 5 minutes.

Step 5. Add the cream and and shimmer for another 3-4 minutes, until thickened.

Step 6. Boil spaghetti or other pasta of your choice following the instruction on the packet. After it is cooked drain the pasta, add to the pan and mix with the sauce.


Enjoy your North Italian delicacy!

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Image credit: x_tine

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Passata di Pomodoro (original Italian tomato paste)

Passata di pomodoro is a tomato purée, which is used as a base for pasta sauces and many other Italian dishes. In Italy it is called «the queen of preserves» and everybody in Italy can remember their grandmother coking it in the end of summer in great quantities, to guarantee delicious tomato sauce for the entire winter season. You also can make it at home using fresh tomatoes and conserve it in sterilized glass jars, or just freeze it for a few months.


  • mature tomatoes – 2 kg for 1 litre of passata di pomodoro


Step 1. Rinse the tomatoes in the running water. Make two 1 cm deep cuts (perpendicular to each other) on the top of every tomato.

Step 2. Fill water in a large pot and bring it to boil. Then place the tomatoes in it and boil just for 1 minute. You need this to remove the skin from them.

Step 3. Remove tomatoes from the water and remove the skin starting from the cut. Cut the tomatoes in four parts and remove seeds and liquid parts. You only need the pulp.

Step 4. Place the tomatoes pulp in a pan and cook it on slow fire (without water or oil) for 30 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Step 5. Transfer tomatoes to a blender and process them until the consistency of a smooth purée.

Step 6. Now you can transform your passata di pomodoro in a delicious pasta sauce by adding oil, salt and basil leaves. Otherwise, you can simply freeze it for later use, or even seal in sterilized glass jars, just like real Italian home cooks do!

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