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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.
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.
What you need
The ingredients for this easy recipe make it rich and flavorful. Let’s discuss just a few of the key 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.
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.
- Gather the whole milk, gelatin powder, granulated sugar, heavy cream and vanilla extract.
- Measure them out and prepare your workspace.
2. Make the custard
Mix the ingredients to create the creamy custard.
- Put the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface.
- Then, let stand for 10 minutes.
- After that, add sugar to the mix. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 180°F. Make sure to heat and stir constantly.
- Remove from heat. Allow to cool to 120°F.
- 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.
- Pour the cream mixture into four 4-ounce ramekins or jars. Fill to just below the rim.
- 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.
- The sauce should be made just prior to serving.
- Add berries, sugar and lemon juice to a food processor.
- Puree the mixture until very smooth.
- Then, push the puree through a sieve to remove seeds.
- If necessary, adjust the flavor with additional sugar.
- Finally, top each one with an equal amount of sauce.
Frequently asked questions
The flavor is sweet and rich with a warm vanilla flavor. The texture is velvety and smooth. It melts across the tongue.
Creme brulee uses eggs to set the custard while panna cotta relies on gelatin.
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.
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:
Did you try this recipe? I would love for you to leave me a 5-star rating or comment. This way, I have a better understanding of which recipes you like and can create more of them.
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Can I substitute the heavy cream with half and half?
You essentially can use any dairy or dairy alternative you prefer. Keep in mind this will change the taste and richness of the panna cotta.