This classic Italian dessert Panna cotta is made of sweetened cream which is thickened with gelatin and usually moulded. The cream may be flavoured with vanilla, coffee, rum, etc. Although the name does not sound appetizing at all (it means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian), panna cotta is silky smooth with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and is as close to perfection as it gets!
Panna Cotta is the perfect dessert for any occasion — whether you’re throwing a fancy party or a small one. The fact that it can be made ahead of time, is a big plus. Panna Cotta is gluten-free and egg-free and can easily be adapted to be dairy-free, vegan, etc. You can also adjust the sweetness to your liking by using less or more sugar or by substituting the sugar with xylitol, honey, etc. It can even be sweetenend with nothing only fruit puree. It is easy, quick, practically foolproof, and an overall crowd pleaser. Scroll down to see a few pointers on how to make perfect Panna Cotta.
90 ml cold water
30 ml gelatine powder *
1 liter cream
125 ml white sugar or xylitol
5 ml vanilla extract
food colour, e.g. red (optional)
- Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a measuring jug and let stand 5 to 10 minutes until it “blooms” — the gelatin grains will swell and look like they’ve absorbed some liquid.
- Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and food colour if used.
- Lightly oil dariole or silicone moulds with a neutral-tasting oil. Set it aside.
- Pour the warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
- Divide the Panna Cotta mixture between the prepared cups or moulds, then set aside to cool before covering each cup or mould with cling wrap.
- Refrigerate for at least four hours to allow enough time to set completely.
- Run a knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta if using Dariole moulds or unmould from a silicon mould following the instructions below.
- Transfer the Panna Cotta’s to individual plates or a large serving platter and garnish as desired.
- To get the layered effect in the photo, make half a batch plain Panna Cotta (recipe above), pour it into the moulds and let it set completely before adding a cooled batch of flavoured or coloured Panna Cotta (click here for the recipe for Coffee Panna Cotta).
- To create the angled Panna Cotta below, use juice glasses (about 150 ml each) and place the glasses at an angle in a muffin pan. Make half a batch plain Panna Cotta (recipe above), pour it into the glasses and let it set completely before adding a cooled batch of flavoured or coloured Panna Cotta. Do as many layers as you like!
- For equally tasty but lower-fat versions of this delectable dessert, have a look at Low-fat Panna Cotta.
- For an interesting variation on the authentic Panna Cotta, try Goat’s Cheese Panna Cotta.
- For a vegan-friendly version, just use a vegan friendly substitute for the gelatine.
- If pressed for time, rather pour the Panna Cotta mixture into wine goblets so you can serve them in the glasses, without unmolding.
- The shallower the dish, the faster the pudding will set.
- If using a tray mould e.g. 8 x 60 ml or small mould, e.g. 1 x 150 ml, place the mould on a baking tray before pouring the liquid into the mould.
- If using a large mould, e.g. ring mould or heart-shaped mould, place the mould on a baking tray before pouring in the liquid to make it easy to move.
- To unmould desserts like jelly, Panna Cotta, etc., lower the mould into a basin with hot water for a few seconds to make unmoulding easier. Also, rinse the serving plate under water before unmoulding. This will make it easier to reposition individual desserts if necessary. Place the serving plate on top of the mould and invert it. Gently manipulate the edges of the mould to break the vacuum. The puddings will slip out easily.