Un’altra storia di risotto – Risotto allo zafferano, tarassaco, spinaci e funghi shiitake

Other names for dandelion or dente di leone, or even tarassaco, piscialetto (pee in bed) in Italian, pissenlit, dent de lion in French – that wonderful bitter green that grows into a beautiful yellow flower. As much as I love risotto, I rarely make it, probably because I never really developed a great relationship with rice. My mom would make seafood risotto or beans and rice once in a while but pasta was the most common dish. “Risotti” are Northern Italian dishes therefore not that popular in Central Italy, even though nowadays its popularity spread out beyond the Northern limits.

I am someone who eats about everything, thinking about it, I don’t think there is an ingredient I don’t eat…maybe one, yes one…sea cucumbers I ordered at a Chinese restaurant. I had no idea what it was exactly, I thought it was that long mollusk I have seen on some TV show (the guy who eats weird food) and that I thought I would eventually like. Well I was wrong, sea cucumber is something in between pork skin and jelly with a fish flavor, so I had to leave it on the table.

The world of risotto is so vast, and this is one version among others, you can explore it to the infinite, I will definitely play with it more often. I like mine colorful, creamy and velvety, one bite should slide in your palate like a caress. You can serve it on the runny side or on the thicker side (I kept mine a little thicker than usual because of the greens), but it cannot lose its creaminess which is the trickiest part for a great risotto.

The saffron adds a very nice pungent and refined flavor, and color too. The golden yellow color was so intense in the plate, contrasting beautifully with the greens…the more color, the better, but not any color…just the matching ones. I do believe in the aesthetic beauty of a dish, after all you devours it with the eyes first.

Ingredients for 2-3

  • 7 oz (or 200 g) arborio rice
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tbs butter (or olive oil)
  • I dose saffron, infused in hot broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2.5 cups or more vegetable broth
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 bunch dandelions, washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 8 medium size shiitake mushrooms, cut in small pieces
  • 2 tbs parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
  • salt and pepper


Heat olive oil or melt butter in a pot, add shallot and brown it. Add rice, stir a few minutes to coat it with the oil. Add wine and increase heat to make the wine evaporate faster. Reduce heat, then add broth gradually.

In the meantime, in a pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil, add garlic and saute dandelions and spinach, saute until tender, adjust with salt and pepper. Remove from pan. Using the same pan, saute shiitake mushrooms in a little olive oil and garlic, salt and pepper. Keep hot.

When the rice is cooked, add parmesan cheese, and fold in the vegetables. Serve hot.