Talk of Italian desserts and you will most likely think of a Tiramisu, a Panna Cotta or a Zabaglione. But there are other lovely desserts, usually made to order in many good restaurants in Italy, that can turn out to be a a revelation. On one trip, I sampled a Saffron and Pistachio Risotto at a small restaurant in the Southern Italian province of Calabria. The chef was kind enough to share his recipe with me and I have made it on innumerable occasions. However, I am sharing the recipe for the first time. The sweet nuttiness of the pistachios and the mellow spicy fragrance of saffron makes this dessert sing.

  • Serves


  • Cook Time



  • 150 gm risotto rice (Arborio works best)
  • 50 gm clarified butter
  • 50 gm pistachio paste
  • 50 gm ricotta (to serve as accompaniment)
  • 25 gm grated white chocolate
  • 25 gm sugar
  • 10 gm chilled butter
  • ½ gm saffron
  • 150 ml milk
  • 50 ml sweet dessert wine (moscato goes very well)
  • 50 ml cream
  • 50 ml condensed milk
  • 50 ml water
  • 2 ml pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch each of orange and lemon zest


  1. In a pan, mix the milk, cream, condensed milk, saffron, vanilla and water. Warm it. This will be our stock that will be slowly incorporated into the risotto.
  2. Heat clarified butter and tip in the Arborio rice. Toast until fragrant.
  3. Add the wine and cook until the rice completely absorbs it.
  4. Next, pour in a ladle of the stock and cook on gentle heat until it is absorbed. Add another ladle and repeat.
  5. Continue till the entire stock has been absorbed, the rice is tender but not overcooked, and the risotto acquires a creamy consistency. This should take 16-20 minutes.
  6. Mix in the grated white chocolate, the zests, a little chilled butter and shake the pan rapidly to fluff the risotto. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Now prepare the pistachio sauce.
  8. Cook the pistachio paste and sugar together until it acquires a sauce-like consistency. A little milk or water can be added to adjust consistency.
  9. Serve the risotto with a generous drizzle of the pistachio sauce and a small wedge of ricotta cheese. Other soft cheeses such as burrata also work. 

Vikas Kumar

Vikas Kumar

Chef Vikas Kumar has cooked for the Queen of England and for Hollywood stars aboard legendary Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Mary II. He worked in the kitchens of uber-luxe properties before taking up the position of Executive Chef at the iconic Calcutta tea room Flurys in 2010. It’s a position he continues to be in. He is also a columnist for a number of national dailies.

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