Italian Saffron, or L’Aquila saffron, is one of the rarest spices on the planet. Its aroma and color are unmatched in terms of quality.
Italian Saffron. Italy’s Red Gold. Image from shutter stock copyright kuvona.
Italian Saffron, specifically L’Aquila saffron from the Abruzzo region, is the most sought after strain of this rare spice. Known locally as “Red Gold,” L’Aquila saffron is much more potent than its Spanish cousins. The color is much more vibrant and vivid, while the aroma is pungent and strong. These distinct features are what make Italian saffron stand head and shoulders above the rest. But, there is a distinct drawback to all these accolades.
To get a mere 1 pound of Italian saffron, a whopping 50,000 saffron flowers must be harvested. By hand. And then the precious threads are picked and dried before being packaged. It’s an intense bit of labor for such small yield, but this is why L’Aquila saffron is so prized. It’s high standard of quality, is worth the high price. Bottles containing 0.06 ounces sold, at retail, for $16. This equates to around $2000 per pound! Mercifully, a little goes a long way with Italian saffron, so you won’t need that much.
A lone gram of Italian saffron contains upwards of 300 threads, and most recipes only call for a pinch; 4 – 5 threads at most. So, a gram of saffron won’t cause you to default on your mortgage. You can find saffron in either paper or glass containers at high end, speciality food stores or through online retailers. Look for the words “superior,” “sargol,” or “coupé” when buying saffron. These denote the highest quality, so you’ll be sure to get the most aroma and flavor from them. The key to cooking with the “Red Gold” is to keep it simple. Let the rich flavor and aroma speak for itself. Rice, pasta, meatballs, even fish. Saffron helps to elevate any dish in which its used.