Instant Pot Saffron Risotto with Roasted Asparagus is done in less than 30 minutes, and everything about this lovely spring meal is hands off ~ the Instant Pot takes care of the risotto while the oven gently roasts the asparagus. This is the easiest restaurant quality meal you’ll ever make.
saffron risotto (risotto alla Milanese)
This glorious golden rice is the most famous recipe from the Northern Italian city of Milan. Utterly simple but so rich and delicious I’ve made it a gorgeous and vibrant meatless meal with the addition of some roasted asparagus.
Risotto is normally requires lots of hands-on time at the stove, slowly stirring simmering stock into rise so it cooks low and slow. This incredible meal is ready in mere minutes when you use an Instant Pot. And the unexpected thing is, I think the Instant Pot makes a superior risotto. I will never make it any other way. (But I’ll include directions for a stove top version as well.)
what you’ll need
- arborio rice ~ a starchy short grain Italian rice that is perfect for risotto. Carnaroli is another rice variety prized for risotto, but it’s harder to find here in the US. Arborio can be found in any large supermarket, and if you can find imported Italian arborio, all the better.
- saffron ~ you’ll find it in a tiny jar in the spice aisle. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, it’s worth it (see below.) There is no substitute for this unique spice in this recipe.
- dry sherry ~ just a tablespoon makes such a difference, keep a bottle in your pantry!
- shallot ~ one of my favorite ingredients, this mild onion gives so many dishes that restaurant quality flavor. Substitute yellow onion if necessary.
- chicken stock ~ veggie stock for vegetarian or vegan.
- Parmesan cheese ~ adds creaminess and flavor to the rice. You can sub in any aged Italian cheese you like. Use vegan Parm if you like.
- asparagus ~ thick or thin is fine. Substitutions might be broccolini or fennel.
- butter ~ butter gets stirred in at the end and contributes to that creamy texture. It adds flavor and richness, too.
- olive oil
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
what is saffron and what does it taste like?
There’s so much to talk about with this simple risotto, but let’s start with the saffron, it’s the star of the show.
- saffron is a spice made from the stigma and styles of the saffron crocus flower. The delicate deep red threads are the most expensive spice in the world, by weight. Luckily you don’t need more than a pinch or two for this risotto.
- saffron is sold in teeny tiny bottles because of its cost. Store it in an airtight glass jar in a cool dark place.
- the flavor is mild but distinctive, and once you experience it, you’ll likely fall in love. I’ve heard it called earthy, grassy, It’s definitely a little bit elusive and mysterious.
- saffron threads are a deep orangey red, but when added to liquid it turns it a brilliant yellow. Just a pinch or two is enough to turn my risotto a golden color and infuse it with the perfect flavor.
6 easy steps to making saffron risotto with asparagus in the Instant Pot
- Sauté a shallot in a little olive oil in the Instant Pot. After a few minutes, add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and toast for a minute.
- Deglaze with a splash of dry sherry.
- Add the stock and saffron and set the machine to pressure cook for 6 minutes. When the machine beeps, don’t do anything for 5 minutes, then release the pressure valve.
- Meanwhile roast the asparagus in a 400F oven just until it turns a bright glossy green and starts to soften.
- Stir a couple of knobs of butter and a bit of Parmesan cheese into the risotto after the machine beeps.
- Serve hot with the asparagus and a good grinding of coarse black pepper.
why the Instant Pot makes the perfect risotto
- The pressure cooker not only makes risotto quickly, but I argue that it’s the best risotto I’ve ever made.
- While traditional risotto relies on slow cooking and constant stirring to bring out the starch in the rice and create that classic creamy texture we all love, the moist high heat of the Instant Pot does an even better job, completely hands off.
- I think the texture of the rice is just perfect with the IP, it’s firmer and less likely to get broken from all the agitation of the stove top method.
- You’ll need far less broth in the pressure cooker, and all that flavor goes straight into the rice.
- Because the IP does all the work, you’re free to imagine all kinds of ways to vary your risotto.
the problem with making Instant Pot risotto!
The only problem? It cooks almost too fast, you’ll barely have time to set the table before the machine starts beeping. I suggest having everything, including the table, set and laid out before you start. Once risotto is ready, you’ll want to serve it asap.
yay for asparagus season!
- Chopped Asparagus Salad Recipe
- Asparagus Puff Pastry Tart
- Fried Rice with Asparagus and Peas
- Asparagus and Salmon Salad
- Roasted Asparagus
Saffron Risotto with Roasted Asparagus
- Instant Pot (optional)
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups chicken stock (I use a 15 ounce can and add 1/4 cup water) Note: if you like your risotto on the wet side, you may want to stir in extra hot broth at the end, just before serving.)
- 2 pinches saffron threads (about 1/4 teaspoon)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 Tbsp dry Sherry Note: use something you'd drink, don't use cooking wine.
- 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (you can add more to taste.)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Trim the asparagus and lay out single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to evenly coat the stalks.
- Roast for about 20 minutes, or just until tender. Keep warm.
- While the asparagus is cooking make the risotto. Crush the saffron between your fingers and add to the broth. Set aside.
- Plug in the Instant Pot and add the olive oil to the pot. Press the SAUTE button, it should read NORMAL (which is a medium heat). Saute the shallots for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they soften, but don't let them brown. If you need to, lower the saute setting to LOW.
- Add the rice to the pot and stir for a minute or two to coat with the oil and briefly toast.
- Add the Sherry to the pot and stir for about 30 seconds while the Sherry evaporates.
- Press CANCEL to turn the heat off. Add the broth and water to the pot and stir well.
- Close the lid and set the vent to SEAL. Press PRESSURE COOK and set it to 6 minutes.
- After the machine beeps to indicate the 6 minutes is up, don't do anything for 5 minutes to let the pressure release naturally. Then release the pressure valve. When the pressure has come completely down, open the lid.
- The rice won't look like much at this point, but have faith! Stir in the butter and cheese, and as you do this the rice will become gorgeously creamy. Taste to see if you'd like to add salt. Note: You can add more cheese or a bit more stock at this point if you want the risotto to be looser.
- Serve in shallow bowls with the roasted asparagus on the side. Top with cracked pepper.
- If you want to hold the risotto, set the instant Pot to KEEP WARM and close the lid (but don't seal the vent.)
notes and variations
- You will need to triple the amount of chicken stock and you will need to heat it to a simmer in a separate saucepan.
- Follow the above recipe through step 4, using a Dutch oven or large skillet on the stove.
- Over medium heat, add the hot stock, a couple of ladles at a time, to the rice, as you stir constantly. When the liquid has been absorbed, add the next ladle.
- Keep adding liquid and stirring in this manner until the rice is creamy and tender. Taste test for doneness. The rice should be tender but not too soft.
- Continue with step 8 of the recipe above.