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Shellfish Risotto with Saffron

Shellfish Risotto with Saffron

Shellfish risotto was made originally in Venice, and risotto with saffron is from Milan. This tale of two cities has a very happy ending: though in most shellfish risotti the flavor of shellfish is not strong in the rice itself, that is deliciously far from the case here. If you use the freshest shellfish you can find, the rice—as well as the shellfish—will taste of the sea. Serves 6 as a first course Recommended wine: Chardonnay

SKU 1100-Recipe

  • 6 Serves


  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 18 small cultivated mussels, scrubbed and bearded
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and shells reserved
  • 6 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • two 3-inch strips orange zest
  • two 3-inch strips lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained and pressed through a sieve (about 1/2 cup puree)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large leeks (white and pale green part only), quartered lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly (about 2 cups)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1 1/4 cups superfino rice
  • 1/4 pound bay scallops
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • minced fresh parsley for garnish


  1. Soak the saffron threads in 2 tablespoons warm water in a small bowl for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the wine and 1 cup water in a large heavy saucepan to boiling.  Add the mussels, cover the pan, and cook over moderately high heat just until the mussels open, about 3 to 6 minutes, discarding any that do not open.  Remove the open mussels with a slotted spoon, place in a bowl, and reserve.
  3. Reduce the heat under the saucepan to moderate and add the shrimp shells, parsley sprigs, zests, fennel seeds and saffron threads with their liquid. Simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 minutes.  Strain the liquid through a very fine sieve lined with damp cheesecloth and discard the solids.  Measure strained liquid and add enough water to make 5 cups.  Transfer the liquid to a saucepan, add the sieved tomatoes, and bring the liquid to a bare simmer.
  4. Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy 2- to 3- quart saucepan, and cook the leeks and garlic over moderate heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the rice, and cook,  stirring constantly, until the edges of the rice become translucent, about 4 minutes.  Add about 1/2 cup simmering liquid to the rice, and cook, stirring constantly and adjusting the heat to maintain a lively simmer (not a steady boil) until all the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding liquid,  about 1/2 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next.  After 15 minutes of cooking, add the shrimp, scallops, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook until rice is al dente (tender but still firm at the center), about 5 to 10 minutes longer.  (The risotto should be very creamy; if it isn't, add more liquid.)  About 2 minutes before finishing the risotto, add the reserved mussels with their juices.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Arrange the risotto on a serving platter, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.