Italy and pasta pretty much go hand in hand, but in northern Italy, rice is the starch of choice. Risotto is made with Arborio rice (a short-grained Italian rice), and it's traditionally cooked on the stovetop. The rice is briefly fried in oil before the broth is added in stages. Constant stirring results in an ultracreamy dish. We shortened the cook time and the amount of stirring by using the microwave. The addition of shrimp and scallops makes for an outstanding entrée.
1. Place 1/2 cup chicken broth and saffron threads in a small microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Remove from microwave; set aside.
2. Place oil in a large glass microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 1 minute. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; stir well. Cover with plastic wrap, and vent; microwave at HIGH 1 minute.
3. Stir in rice. Cover and microwave at HIGH 4 minutes. Strain saffron mixture; discard threads. Stir in saffron broth, remaining 4 1/2 cups chicken broth, wine, and peppers; microwave, uncovered, at HIGH 16 minutes, stirring after 9 minutes.
4. Stir in tomato, shrimp, and scallops; microwave, uncovered, at HIGH 2 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and scallops are done. Stir in parsley and butter. Let stand 5 minutes. Spoon into individual bowls; sprinkle with cheese.
In Milan, saffron is added to risotto to create risotto Milanese (rih-SAW-toh mee-lah-Nay-zay), which is typically served as a side to osso buco.
Quick Tips: To keep preparation time to a minimum, check out these tips from our Test Kitchens.
1. Purchase prechopped onion and tomato, preminced garlic, and presliced mushrooms in the produce department of large supermarkets.
2. Look for peeled and deveined shrimp in the seafood department. As a rule of thumb, 1 pound of shrimp in the shell equals 3/4 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp. For the half pound of shrimp in the shell called for in this recipe, you'll need about 6 1/2 ounces of peeled, deveined shrimp.
3. Place the parsley in a glass measuring cup, and chop quickly with kitchen shears.