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Panna Cotta

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This panna cotta recipe is the perfect fancy Italian dessert with creamy custard and fresh fruit sauce. This easy dessert creates single servings for your guests.

front view of four jars of panna cotta topped with raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries scattered on tabletop and eucalyptus in a vase in the back ground

So, what is panna cotta anyway? It is sweetened milk and cream, which is thickened with gelatin.

This is an easy no-bake dessert that looks so fancy. It’s one of my favorites to make in the warm weather months.

It takes only a few common ingredients to craft this recipe. You likely already have most of the elements at home.

If you like this recipe, you should try my strawberry panna cotta. It is full of berry flavor and custard creaminess.


Why this recipe works

  • This recipe has the perfect balance of gelatin to liquid, which creates a firm, custard-like texture.
  • The ingredients combine to make a rich and silky dessert.
  • The recipe only takes 5 basic ingredients.

This Italian dessert looks fancy, but it is so easy to make. Most of the preparation time is hands-off.

front view of four jars of panna cotta topped with raspberry sauce, a spoon in the front jar, fresh raspberries scattered on tabletop and eucalyptus in a vase in the back ground

What you need

The ingredients for this easy recipe make it rich and flavorful. Let’s discuss just a few of the key ingredients:

Ingredients

This is a short overview of the ingredients I used and why I chose them. The full recipe can be found at the bottom of the post!

  • Milk & cream: These add a rich diary flavor to the custard. For an even richer flavor, add 2 cups (480 g) of heavy cream and omit the milk.
  • Sugar: This gives the custard and sauce the right amount of sweetness.
  • Unflavored gelatin: I use this to give the recipe a firm, custard-like texture. You can substitute with 3 sheets (7 g) of gelatin that you have softened.
  • Vanilla: I prefer pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Do not use imitation vanilla.

Equipment

This is a list of tools I used to make the recipe.

  • Saucepan: I prepare the custard in a medium saucepan.
  • Thermometer: A instant-read thermometer is essential for reaching the correct temperatures while preparing the custard.
  • Sieve: You’ll need a fine-mesh sieve to remove seeds from the sauce.
  • Ramekins or jars: These hold the custard and make them look fancy for serving. I like using these mini jelly jars.

How to make this dessert

1. Gather the ingredients

You’ll need the elements that make up the panna cotta recipe.

Milk in a glass measuring cup, cream in a glass jar, sugar in a jade measuring cup, vanilla in a cream bowl, and a packet of gelatin powder
  1. Gather the whole milk, gelatin powder, granulated sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract.
  2. Measure them out and prepare your workspace.

2. Make the custard

Mix the ingredients to create the creamy custard.

panna cotta custard in glass liquid measuring cup
  1. Put the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface.
  2. Then, let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. After that, add sugar to the mix. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 180°F. Make sure to heat and stir constantly.
  4. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to 120°F.
  5. Once cooled, whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla extract to the mix.

3. Chill the custard

Transfer the custard to jars and let them chill.

cooked custard in a glass jar and liquid measuring cup
  1. Pour the cream mixture into four 4-ounce ramekins or jars. Fill to just below the rim.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until completely set. This will take about 8 hours.

Step 4. Make the raspberry sauce

Combine berries, sugar and lemon juice to create the sauce.

raspberry sauce in a white bowl with fresh raspberries scattered around
  1. The sauce should be made just prior to serving.
  2. Add berries, sugar and lemon juice to a food processor.
  3. Puree the mixture until very smooth.
  4. Then, push the puree through a sieve to remove seeds.
  5. If necessary, adjust the flavor with additional sugar.
  6. Finally, top each one with an equal amount of sauce.

Frequently asked questions

What does it taste like?

The flavor is sweet and rich with a warm vanilla flavor. The texture is velvety and smooth. It melts across the tongue.

What is the difference between creme brulee and panna cotta?

Creme brulee uses eggs to set the custard while panna cotta relies on gelatin.

Can I make dairy-free panna cotta?

Make it dairy-free by using a milk alternative, such as oat milk or almond milk.

Jen’s best tips

  • If you would like to unmold the chilled custard, use ramekins instead of jars.
  • I have not tested blackberries and blueberries, but I think they would be good substitutes in the sauce.
  • You can make the custard portion ahead of time. Then, make and top with the sauce just prior to serving.
overhead view of a spoon taking out a bite of panna cotta with fresh raspberry sauce

Storing & Freezing

To store: It will keep for no more than 10 days in the fridge. Cover tightly with plastic wrap prior to storing.

To freeze: I would not recommend freezing panna cotta.


More elegant desserts to try

Looking for more desserts for dinner parties? Try out some of my favorites from the blog:


Watch how to make it

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front view of four jars of panna cotta topped with raspberry sauce, fresh raspberries scattered on tabletop and eucalyptus in a vase in the back ground

Panna Cotta

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Chill Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 25 minutes

Panna cotta (Italian cooked cream) uses few ingredients - milk/cream, sugar, vanilla, and gelatin. The gelatin to liquid ratio sets the mixture just firm enough to create a custard-like texture. The result is a rich and silky dessert that pairs beautifully with fresh raspberry sauce.

Ingredients

For the custard

  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons (7g) gelatin powder, 1 packet
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the sauce

  • 8-ounces (226 g) fresh raspberries or strawberries
  • ½ (100 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions

Make the custard

    1. Add the milk to a medium saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface and let stand for 10 minutes.
    2. Add the sugar to the gelatin mixture. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 180°F. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
    3. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool to 120°F.
    4. Once cooled, slowly whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.
    5. Pour the custard into four 4-ounce ramekins or glasses, filling to just below the rim.
    6. Cover and refrigerate until completely set, about 8 hours.

Make the sauce

    1. Add berries, sugar, and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Puree the berries until very smooth. Push the puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds.
    2. Adjust the flavor with additional sugar if necessary.
    3. Top each panna cotta with an equal amount of sauce.

Notes

Dairy: For a richer flavor, use 2 cups (480 g) heavy cream and omit the milk.

Make it dairy free: Milk alternatives also work great with this recipe. Try it with oat milk or almond milk.

Gelatin: If you don't have powdered gelatin, you can use 3 sheets (7 g) of gelatin that have been softened.

Vanilla: Use pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for the best flavor. If at all possible, avoid imitation vanilla.

Berries: Raspberries or strawberries work great with this recipe. While I haven't tested other berries, I imagine blackberries and blueberries would also be good options.

Unmolding: You can unmold the chilled custard if desired. If you wish to serve it this way, be sure to use ramekins instead of jars. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a small bowl. Dip the ramekin into the water for 3 seconds. Run a knife around the edges of the ramekin and invert onto serving plates.

Make ahead tip

  1. Panna cotta will keep for up to 10 days covered tightly with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
  2. I do not recommend freezing panna cotta.
  3. The sauce is best made right before serving.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 (4-ounce) ramekin
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 386Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 47mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 4gSugar: 34gProtein: 6g

* Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy by an online nutrition calculator and is not guaranteed to be accurate. Always seek advice from a nutritionist or medical professional.

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