Il festino lombardo

Morning guys. Last night I finally made a couple of the dishes that I learned in Milan, when I was doing my Cuisine course last year. It was a really challenging course, which included 6 cooking lessons at Teatro 7, with Chef Gualtiero. My Italian wasn’t very good, but I still really enjoyed the cooking lessons. I also really liked that after we finished the lesson that we would eat our creations. Since didn’t eat dairy and there were a few vegetarians in the class, I usually had a dairy free and/or vegan meal.

On our first lesson we made Mondeghili, Risotto allo zafferano, and Sbrisolona. Mondeghili is Milanese polpette (meatball) and is typical dish of the poor. It uses all different cuts of meat, which is cooked off and then processed and then shaped into patties, crumbed and fried. Clearly not a vegan dish, but if you are a meat lover this was probably the most delicious meatball I have ever tasted. It is full of flavor and very delicious. I am satisfied I have tried it, but knowing all the meat that is needed to make this dish, is enough for me be content not to have it again.

Risotto allo zafferano is also a typically dish of the Lombardia. This dish dates back to 1574, when a Valerio da Perfundavalle, Flemish master of glass making, was called to Milan to work on the magnificent Duomo. He came with family and his apprentice, who was nicknamed ‘Zafferano‘ (saffron). He was nicknamed this because of his talent of mixing yellow powder from saffron to create brilliant golden tones. Zafferano fell in love with his master’s beautiful daughter, who was already betrothed and on her wedding day (8th of September 1574), Zafferano was so jealous that he put saffron in the wedding risotto. Instead of being a catastrophe, it was praised because of its beautiful golden color and the strong aroma of the saffron. Since then this dish became a staple of Milanese cuisine and saffron became one of the most widely used spices in the Middle Ages. Today there are many variations of this dish, which use mushrooms, seafood, sausages or beef shanks. One of the more famous variations, which is often confused with this dish is Risotto alla Milanese or risòtt giald , which you will find in many restaurants in Milan. The this variation uses beef marrow and doesn’t use white wine.

I love both Risotto allo zafferano and Risotto alla Milanese. In class Chef Gualtiero didn’t add the butter or Parmesan to  dish mine so it was dairy free. Although a simple modification, I had trouble asking for that from restaurants in Milan, so I usually just ate it home or with family. I did however share the Risotto alla Milanese and the Cotoletta alla Milanese, with Marco on his first week in Milan. We wanted to sample the regional dishes of every city we visited. On this particular day it freezing as it was in the was the middle of winter and it was snowing outside. It was so nice to have a hot meal in a warm restaurant in Cairoli. Although it was more expensive then having lunch in a trattoria, it was a nice experience. As you can see they were very generous with the portions and the Parmesan. Below is also a picture of  my aunt and I in front of the Duomo, on my first day in Milan.


La Cotoletta alla Milanese


Il Risotto alla Milanese


Duomo in Milano

So for dinner I tried to recreate the Risotto allo zafferano. I served with Funghi trifolati (mushrooms sautéed) and a Fry’s Schnitzel. It’s not exactly a Cotoletta, but it was the closes thing I had. I had to use imitation saffron for this dish, since the only saffron I found was $14 for 5 g from Coles and I thought it was a bit too much to pay for a few threads of saffron. So it didn’t have the aroma, but it did give it the beautiful golden color and it tasted amazing. For dessert I made Sbrisolona, which you can see below.


Risotto allo zafferano (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


3-4 tablespoons vegan butter (I used Nutlex)

1 cup diced onion

500g aborbio rice

1 cup white wine

1 -1.25 litre vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

few saffron threads or 1/4 teaspoon imitation saffron



1. Take a large pot and fill with the liquid stock and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

2. In the meantime take another large pot and melt butter. Then add the onion. Cook for 3 mins.???????????????????????????????

3. Add aborbio rice to pot and coat in the butter and onions, let it toast for 3 mins.

4. Add the wine to the rice and cook until its been absorbed.???????????????????????????????

5. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock to the rice and constantly stir. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins.

6. Add saffron and stir through. The rice should change colour to yellow. Continue to add stock and stir, until the rice is cooked.

*Melt more vegan butter before serving and serve with or without vegan parmesan

* Serves 6-8


Funghi trifolati (Sautéed Mushrooms) (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)


olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

1 packet dried mushrooms, soaked in water  for 20 minutes, then and roughly chopped

fresh minced basil & italian parsley

sea salt to taste


1. Heat oil in a pan, then add garlic. Saute for 2 mins. ???????????????????????????????

2. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 mins or until golden brown.

3. Take off the heat and add fresh basil, parsley and season with sea salt.


Sbrisolona or Torta Mantovana Sbrisolona, is a traditional crunchy cake from Mantova (Mantua), Lombardia. It gets its name from the mantovana dialect sbrisciolare, which means to crumble, which is the best way to describe this cake. It is made of white flour, corn flour, almond meal and butter. Traditionally it was a peasants sweet, so they used lard instead of butter and the cheapest nuts, rather then almonds. But since then the recipe has become more refined and has become a famous abroad. This cake is not cut in slices, rather is it crumbed in to pieces.

This cake dates back to as early as the 5th century and was first written about by the Gonzaga court. The House of Gonzaga ruled Mantova from 1323 to 1708, which is relatively long, compared to other royal families and duchies in Italy. The court cooks gave this humble cake a remake, added sugar, spices and almonds. There are many variations that have been developed over time, including using olive oil instead of butter and adding dark chocolate.

When I was in Italy I took a course about Leonardo Da Vinci and Renaissance Art. Da Vinci worked for the Sforza court in Milan, who were allied with the Gonzaga court in Mantova. I was intrigued by the Gonzaga family and the pictures of their magnificent castle. So I went to the city of Mantova, where I found not only the most beautiful castle I have ever seen, but found some amazing dishes as well. We tried the Tortelli di zucca and the Risotto alla mantova. I tried to recreate the Tortelli di zucca in one of my earlier posts. It is one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted. We also tried a small version of the Sbrisolona there, but it was nothing like the one we made fresh in class with Chef Gualitero. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of them or inside the castle.

Pasta and cakes in Mantova

Pastas and cakes in Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova

Palazzo Ducale, Mantova


Tortelli di Zucca

Risotto alla Mantova

Risotto alla Mantova

For my Sbrisolona I changed the ingredients a little bit so it would be more healthier vegan version. I used coconut sugar and vegan butter. I also used soy milk instead of egg yolks to moist the cake. It still turned out very delicious and crumbly, but I did brown it a little too much. I should of put foil on it while it was cooking in the oven oven, which I didn’t do until the last 10 mins. It is extremely easy to make and a great sweet to have with coffee after a meal.

Sbrisolona (vegan, soy free)


100g tipo 00 flour

100 g corn flour

100g coconut sugar or evaporated cane sugar or raw sugar

80g ground almonds

zest from 1 small lemon

100g vegan butter (I used Nutlex)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate)

30g whole almonds


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees and prepare a round baking dish with baking paper or take an aluminum pie  pan.

2. Take a mixing bowl and sift the flours.???????????????????????????????

3. Add the sugar and ground almond and stir through.

4. Add lemon zest, vegan butter, vanilla extract and soy milk. Use your fingers to mix the dough. It should be slightly moist.

5. Press the dough into the baking dish, firmly with your fingers. Then push the whole almonds into the top. Bake for 40-45 mins.

Il “risòtt giald” 2013, <>

Sbrisolona – The Italian Cookie 2011, <;

16 thoughts on “Il festino lombardo

    • Some people thing the Duomo is hideous, but it is amazing. Against the sky it looks heavenly. It almost hurts your eyes to look at it. No matter how many times I saw it it was always in awe. The sculptures all over the outside are amazing as well and so detailed.

  1. I miss Milan. Had one of the most delicious gelato there. Your risotto looks very yummy. I should try this butter version soon. I dream of going for cuisine course in Italy but find it rather expensive…

    • thanks gotaste! yeah cooking course are getting more and more unaffordable as they becoming more trendy. i did mine with uni so it was included. there are some language programs you can do that include cuisine courses. we have heaps of advertisement at my uni, but i think anyone can do them. that may be cheaper way to go, then going to a one day tourist class. yes the gelato is spectacular there, i really miss it!

  2. Pingback: Risotto alla zucca, Brazil Nut Parmesan, Zucchini Fritters with Mint and Banana Blueberry Overnight Oats | Live Blissful

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