Panna Cotta

If you find you’re having guests tonight and have a couple of hours for something to chill, let me suggest making a little Italian gem called Panna Cotta – or literally cooked cream. Or if you have a party in a couple of days, but time right now, it is a great make ahead dish, as it stores well in refrigeration for several days.

This dessert originated in Northern Italy, the Piedmont, and it’s beauty is that it uses fresh ingredients in season. So if it’s time for raspberries or blueberries, or even peaches or no fruit at all, Panna Cotta has you covered. Because it uses gelatin and not eggs, it gives you the ability to infuse the recipe with just about anything, Coffee, Fruit, Spices, Extracts, etc.

Here is the basic recipe:

  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
  • 2 packet of powdered Gelatin (use 1 packet if serving in a container)
  • 3 Tbs water PER packet of Gelatin


Measure the water into your saucepan and pour the gelatin over the water let it absorb (5 minutes), meanwhile measure the other ingredients and combine with gelatin. Heat the mixture till the sugar is completely dissolved but do not boil.

If you are going to turn the Panna Cotta out to be free standing you have to lightly oil the ramekins or molds so they will release, I like to serve them directly out of small fruit cups or even Martini glasses because it’s just easier.

Let the hot milk mixture cool off the heat for 5-10 min if a skin forms just remove it prior to pouring into the ramekins. Let the ramekins cool for another 10 minutes then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours; chill 4 or more if you are turning them out to be free standing.

At this point if you have extra time, you can make a coulis or even sweet wine syrup to drizzle when served. Other options include some curls of chocolate, just fruit, a sweet coffee reduction just use your imagination. I have made them with spices at Christmas and with Hazelnut paste and fresh berries just the other week. The options are almost limitless because it is such a malleable dessert waiting to be shaped by your culinary wishes. (You could even do a savory version with onion to serve as a side)

Once cool, if serving free standing, run a sharp knife around the edge of the mold, and turn them over on the plate, if they are stubborn to release it’s a male Panna Cotta and you just have to soak it in some hot water for 30 seconds and try to turn it out again. Most men will do anything to stay out of hot water. Till next month.

Ciao’, Glenn and Glenn