Panna cotta, literally translated as cooked cream, is a traditional Italian dessert that is made with cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and gelatin. Panna cotta is one of my ideal desserts: it’s very easy and quick to make, it can be made ahead of time, and it is an overall crowd pleaser. I learned how to make this panna cotta recipe thanks to my awesome friend Rossana. Anytime you see an Italian recipe posted here it is likely that it came from her.
How to make panna cotta
- 0.5 oz unflavored gelatin (2 envelopes of 7 grams each, or 0.25 oz per envelope)
- 2 cups milk (0.5 + 1.5 cups)
- 4 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or the seeds from one vanilla bean
- Put ½ cup of milk (25% milk volume) in a small bowl and pour the gelatin over it to let it soften.
- In a medium sized pot, heat the cream and the rest of milk (75% volume) with the sugar until the mix starts to boil.
- Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
- Gently stir in the softened gelatin mix and stir well.
- To make the panna cotta extra smooth you can pour the cream mix through a mesh strainer, this well help remove any clumps.
- Pour the panna cotta mix into serving glasses or molds according to your preference.
- Let the mix cool down and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving, overnight is ideal.
- Serve directly in the glasses or remove from molds. Garnish with your choice of fresh fruit, fruit sauce, dulce de leche or caramel, chocolate or just serve alone.
Rossana would make this dessert for dinner parties, but usually just for the adults; she would have chocolate cake or ice cream for the kids. I started making this Italian dessert more frequently when Rossana moved away and I would also offer it to the kids, who loved it (of course), and were shocked when they learned that they had been deprived from it at Rossana’s parties.
Classic panna cotta is made using vanilla, but you can also modify the recipe to make it with chocolate, coconut, or your flavor of choice. It can be served as is, or garnished with fresh fruit, fruit sauces, chocolate sauce, dulce de leche, etc. You can put the panna cotta in molds, ramekins or serving glasses. I like to use a variety of different sizes; this works great for parties as people can choose the size that they want.
For special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, you can also use molds that are shaped for that occasion. I also serve some plain and others with different toppings, such as a fresh strawberry slices, passion fruit pulp, homemade strawberry sauce, candied kumquats and dulce de leche.
Step by step preparation photos for Italian panna cotta