Classic Panna Cotta

Up until a few days ago, I had never tried Panna Cotta, in fact I really don’t ever remember seeing it on a dessert menu. Now I am sure that I have seen it on a menu before, but it was always overshadowed by a New York Style Cheesecake or Bread Pudding. 🙂 A few days ago Andrew and I had some friends over for an Italian inspired dinner party. I knew I wanted to serve a traditional Italian dessert but couldn’t decide which one I wanted to make. I eventually decided on this Panna Cotta more out of curiosity than anything else. The result was incredible and nothing like I thought it was going to taste like. In case you are new to Panna Cotta like I was, it is a classic Italian custard dessert that is made from a lightly sweetened cream mixture that’s set with a small amount of gelatin. Unlike most custards that use eggs or starch to thicken the dessert, this recipe only uses gelatin. The result is a custard that has an unbelievably light and silky mouthfeel. Panna Cotta only takes minutes to prepare and can be made a day ahead of time, making it a wonderful choice for a dinner party dessert. Serve with Berry Coulis and fresh berries or a rich chocolate or caramel sauce.

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Classic Panna Cotta

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  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 ¾ teaspoons gelatin
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 inch piece vanilla bean, slit lengthwise with paring knife (or substitute 2 teaspoons extract)
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Pinch table salt


  1. Pour milk into medium saucepan; sprinkle surface evenly with gelatin and let stand 10 minutes to hydrate gelatin.
  2. Meanwhile, turn contents of two ice cube trays (about 32 cubes) into large bowl and add 4 cups cold water.
  3. Measure heavy cream into a large measuring cup. With paring knife, scrape vanilla seeds into cream and place the pod in cream along with seeds; set aside.
  4. Set eight 4-ounce ramekins on baking sheet; set aside.
  5. Heat milk and gelatin mixture over high heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved and mixture registers 135 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ minutes. Turn off heat, add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved, about 1 minute.
  6. Stirring constantly, slowly pour cream with vanilla into saucepan containing milk, then transfer mixture to medium metal bowl and set the bowl over the ice water bath. Stir frequently until thickened to the consistency of eggnog and mixture registers 50 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes. Strain mixture into large measuring cup and distribute evenly among ramekins. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap; refrigerate until just set (mixture should wobble when shaken gently), 4 hours.
  7. To unmold panna cotta,  pour 1 cup of boiling water into a small bowl, dip one remekin at a time into the water, count to three, and lift the ramekin out of the water.
  8. With a moistened finger, press lightly around the periphery of the cream to loosen the edges. Dip the ramekin back into the water for another three-count.
  9. Invert the ramekin over your palm and loosen the cream by cupping your fingers between the cream and the edges of the ramekin.
  10. Gently lower the cream onto the plate, drizzle with berry coulis and serve.

Yields: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 4 hours and 20 minutes

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, July 2000

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10 Responses to Classic Panna Cotta

  1. Judy says:

    A lovely springime dessert, I am so enjoying the strawberries right now.

  2. I agree with Judy… it’s a perfectly springy dessert! I’ll be trying this soon!

  3. This looks so good! I love strawberry desserts!

  4. This looks incredible. My mouth is seriously watering!

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    I do enjoy panna cotta but we share the same vision problem, Christina. Once I see “Cheesecake” on the desert menu, I’m unable to see anything else. And don’t get me started about what happens if a Cheesecake Factory is located along the route to a restaurant where friends are waiting. 🙂

  6. Very nice! I have never had panna cotta either but this sure makes me want to try it!

  7. I had no idea it was that simple. Looks wonderful, at the risk of sounding like a broken record!

  8. DouglasMB says:

    That looks really good!

  9. ye-mek says:

    Just in one word, “very sweet”. We love this recipe… This is incredible…

  10. ye-mek says:

    Sweet, it looks sweet… We love it. Thanks for sharing this nice recipe with us.

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