Perfect Panna Cotta Recipe
Panna cotta is incredibly easy to make, and if it takes you more than five minutes to put it together, you’re taking too long! The result is a silky custard-like dessert that pairs well with fresh fruit, a baked fruit compote, or even a spoonful of homemade jam.
“Spend more time shopping, and less time cooking” is my friend Judy’s mantra, who teaches cooking in Tuscany, whose recipe I’ve adapted here.
Judy bypassed the traditional route and self-published her first cookbook, Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen, a personalized, hand-written recipe book with favorites from her Tuscan cooking classes. I had some lovely ripe nectarines and cherries, and put them to good use alongside this Panna cotta. Other accompaniments could include caramel sauce, cherry compote, cherries in red wine syrup, or berries and nectarines marinated in the refrigerator for a few hours in red wine, with a sprinkle of sugar or honey added.
If you want to cut the richness of Panna cotta, you can swap out half-and-half for the heavy cream, or buttermilk. Because there are no eggs or custard-making involved, you pretty much have a lot of leeway when making Panna cotta. One could infuse the cream with lemon verbena, fresh mint leaves, cinnamon sticks, or even rose petals, in place of the vanilla.
And feel free to get creative with the vessels you use. I made mine in coffee cups (above), oiling them lightly before pouring in the Panna cotta mixture to set.
Adapted from Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts
I love this dessert and the great thing about Panna cotta is that it needs to be made in advance, the perfect do-ahead dessert. You can make them up to two days ahead and keep them well-covered and chilled. For gelatin-related questions, read my Tips for Using Gelatin. You can find instructions for using sheet gelatin at the end of the recipe.
I’ve not used non-dairy milks, such as soy, oatmeal or nut milks, but I am sure they would work with this recipe. For alternatives to using regular gelatin, check the links a the end of the recipe. To make buttermilk panna cotta, substitute buttermilk for half of the heavy cream called for.
- 4 cups (1l) heavy cream or half-and-half
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 packets powdered unflavored gelatin (about 4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water
1. Heat the heavy cream or half-and-half and sugar in a saucepan . Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)
2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.
3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours but I let them stand at least four hours.
If you’re pressed for time, pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.
6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired.
To make Panna Cotta with sheet gelatin: Soften 25g (approximately six sheets) in a liter of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm Panna Cotta mixture in step # 4, until dissolved.
3 Vegetarian Substitutes for Gelatin (The Kitchn)
Fish Gelatin Powder (Amazon)