23 August 2009

PANNA COTTA: A Vanilla Revelation

I have seen recipes for panna cotta for years, and frankly, I didn’t understand the point of it. Sweetened cream, set with gelatin? Eww. But when we were in Siena several years ago, I tried it for the first time. OH. MY. This is definitely something whose description doesn’t do it justice. Not at all. It’s just--well, wonderful.

It’s the perfect light dessert after a rich meal. It’s just the right touch of sweetness, balanced by the vanilla. When you add berries as I have, you have a light, sweet/tart dessert, the perfect end to a perfect meal. What more can you ask?

Personally, I can ask more. Call me greedy. I can ask that it be easy, and this is that. It takes only a few minutes to prepare, and I make it in little verrines, so that I don’t have to un-mold it. This presentation is not only pretty but it’s also (even better) almost totally do-ahead. I usually have an Italian almond cookie to put on the side, and maybe a pretty edible flower.


1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup (scant) sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

2 sheets gelatine (3.5 - 4 g total)

To serve:

Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or any other tart berry macerated in sugar to draw out the juice.

  1. Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water while you prepare the cream. Put the cream, milk, sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add these to the cream mixture, and whisk to break up the vanilla seeds.
  3. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and stir it into the pan with the hot cream/milk.
  4. Heat gently till just beginning to steam--don’t let it boil! Don’t even let it simmer. Keep it gently steaming for about 5 minutes to allow the vanilla to steep.
  5. Pour into 4 small verrines or pretty glasses, and chill for 8 hours or overnight. To serve, spoon berries and their juice over the panna cotta and add a dab of whipped cream if you like.

Serves 4 if they like it and 10 if they don’t.


  • Make this in a larger bowl and unmold it onto a plate at serving time. Surround it with berries or fruit coulis and serve.
  • Make individual servings in small cups and unmold each of them. This is really pretty, especially if you have some pretty dessert plates.
  • Use rosewater or lavender instead of vanilla for a delicate, floral perfume.


La Table De Nana said...

Kate your verrines are spectacular:) Are the berries in a gel too? Ethereal!

Bob said...

Looks fantastic, but when do you add the gelatin to the cream?

I haven't tried panna cotta yet. It's one of those things thats been on The List for ages but I just haven't gotten around to it. Your description of it has bumped it up though. :)

Kate said...

Monique, no, the berries are in their own juice. I love to see the juice and the creamy panna cotta in the little glasses. As you eat it, the juice runs down into the cream and makes really gorgeous patterns. Art and food!

Bob, THANK YOU! It's always great to have another set of eyes looking at something. I've added that step... (insert embarrassed icon here)

La Table De Nana said...

I have raspberries about to turn..I ate most yesterday off the bush before the wasps did..I think I will make these when I get my big bounty of maybe 20:) Thanks!

eatlivetravelwrite said...

Looks amazing - I have always loved panna cotta though!!!

Daij said...

I have never heard of panna cotta before but it looks yummy. I'm going to try it!

Kate said...

Monique, your panna cotta is gorgeous. I love the way you've presented it!

ELTW, arent' you lucky to know panna cotta! On the other hand, you don't get to discover it now... I'd send you some if I could!

Daij, I hope you get to try it. It's really easy. Thanks for stopping by.

Linda said...

These are gorgeous....I have little glass yogurt jars that my husband brought me back from Brussels...
they would be great for these!

katrina said...

What a beautiful presentation! Gorgeous, gorgeous!

Kate said...

What a lovely close to a meal....or, just for a snack! Love the verrines...beautiful!

Dawn said...

That. Looks. Delicious. I'll have to try it. :)

The Little Teochew said...

Hi Kate, I came over after seeing Monique's panna cotta. Thank YOU for sharing a lovely recipe. Simply beautiful glasses of art!

PS: I am fascinated by your profile description :)

The Gypsy Chef said...

Hi Kate, I too found you through Monique's blog. Your recipe looks terrific. I recently had panna cotta, believe it or not on British Airways, and fell in love with it. So glad to have found the recipe and your lovely blog. Your life sounds quite intriguing.