Salt & Wind Travel

Classic Italian Panna Cotta

If we were to pick an Italian dessert that doesn’t get nearly enough love, we’d say it’s classic Italian panna cotta, no question! As we’ve discussed before, panna cotta is one of the most classic Italian desserts. It comes from the Northwestern region of Piedmont, where it’s one of the most iconic recipes.

It’s said that the recipe dates back to the early 1900s when a woman in the town of Cuneo first made the recipe. These days, the dish is so associated with this corner of Italy that the Region of Piedmont has it on its list of local traditional foods.

Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

You’ll often find the panna cotta original recipe made with a touch of rum or marsala but without any garnish. We prefer to make this super easy version and add any sauces once we serve it.

At its most classic, the basic panna cotta mixture is heavy cream that simulates sugar and vanilla and whisks together with gelatin. The dessert is inherently easy to make if you’re searching for an easy panna cotta recipe.

But that doesn’t mean all versions of the dessert are created equal. There are a few key steps (and quality ingredients that make all the difference). 

Recipe Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you need to make this Italian panna cotta recipe:

  • Heavy cream
  • Gelatin powder
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Sugar
  • Strawberries

How To Make Italian Panna Cotta

The key to making the best panna cotta is to get quality ingredients and to follow a few tips:

  • Use Vanilla Bean Over Vanilla Extract: This is a classic vanilla panna cotta recipe and the prominent flavor is vanilla. As such, we’d suggest you use a real vanilla bean or vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract, as it will bring a more intense flavor and add those signature black vanilla bean specks.
  • Whisk In The Gelatin Well: The gelatin will become clumpy as it sits, but that’s okay—just make sure that you whisk it into the warm cream well before you pour it into the prepared molds. FYI, most gelatin is not vegetarian, so you’ll want to seek out vegetarian gelatin if that is a concern.
  • Give It Adequate Time To Set: You’ll want to let the panna cotta sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before you serve it. If you’re wondering how far ahead you can make panna cotta, it can be made up to five days in advance—just keep it refrigerated until you plan to eat it.
  • Serve It As Is Or With Toppings: The panna cotta is delicious as is, but you can also add a variety of sauces or toppings. We like it with melted chocolate, a spoonful of caramel, or even a berry coulis, fresh berries tossed in honey, or even a sprinkling of chopped nuts.
  • Unmold It Before Serving: You’ll sometimes find panna cotta served in small cups or bowls and other times placed in a more extensive mold. While you can serve it directly in the small ramekins, it is usually served out of the mold.

    To get it out, you’ll want to dip the container in hot water and then run a knife around the inside perimeter of the container. Then, place a serving plate on top of the mold, flip it over, and tap on it until the panna cotta emerges. If you want to be 100% sure that you can get the panna cotta out of the mold, coat it with a touch of neutral oil before you pour the panna cotta mixture inside.

Is Panna Cotta A Custard?

Almost every time we make this dessert, someone either calls it custard or asks if it’s just Italian crème brûlée. While crème brûlée is a custard or a cooked mixture of milk or cream with eggs and sugar, panna cotta is made without eggs and is instead held together with gelatin.

So, panna cotta is a creamy dairy dessert, but it is not made with eggs, so it is not a custard and is not related to crème brûlée. Got it? Good!

What Wine Goes With Panna Cotta?

Regarding wine pairing, sweet dessert wines go best with sweet desserts. And, as you’ve heard us say time and again, what grows together goes together. This classic Piedmont classic dessert is delicious with wines from the same Italian region.

If you top the panna cotta with berries, as we’ve done here, it’s a natural pairing with the sweet, low-alcohol wines made with the Brachetto grape. Chef Pietro Visconti from Milan shared this recipe with us.

{Gelato alla Cannella} Cinnamon Gelato Recipe

More Italian Desserts

Here are a few more classic Italian desserts:

Go stock up on all your cooking essentials, head into the kitchen, make this, and share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!

Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe

Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe

An easy recipe for a classic Italian panna cotta dessert from the Northwest region of Piedmont, this Classic Italian Panna Cotta recipe it's made with heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla bean.
4.7 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
resting time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 235 kcal


  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 ounce Unflavored gelatin powder (about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 whole vanilla bean

    split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch kosher salt
  • Fresh strawberries

    for garnish


  • Dissolve The Gelatin: Place 1/4 cup of water in a small shallow bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Set it aside while you cook the cream. If you want to unmold the panna cotta to serve it, go ahead and coat whatever serving mold you decide to use (a ramekin or a metal tin or a fluted bowl) with a bit of cooking spray or a very thin layer of neutral oil (say avocado oil). 
  • Simmer The Cream: Meanwhile, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, and the salt in a small saucepan. Warm the mixture over medium heat until the mixture simmers and stir until sugar is dissolved for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mix, and whisk well until the gelatin is evenly mixed into the cream. 
  • Fill Panna Cotta Molds: Fill four ramekins or small dishes with about 1/2 cup of the base (or one larger mold with all the cream mixture). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until mixture is set and jiggles slightly when moved, about 5 hours or overnight.
  • Serve The Panna Cotta: You can serve the panna cotta in the ramekins or molds or you can unmold it. To unmold the panna cotta, dip the mold bottoms or small dishes in very hot water. Run a knife around the Panna cotta's perimeter, cover with a serving plate, and flip to unmold the panna cotta.
    Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries and/or a drizzle of honey, melted chocolate, or even a berry puree.



Serving: 1 servingCalories: 235kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 2gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 67mgSodium: 16mgPotassium: 57mgSugar: 10gVitamin A: 875IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Italian Dessert, summer dessert
Tried this recipe?Mention @saltandwind or tag #swsociety!

Travel Planning Resources

This post may contain affiliate links. Please refer to our privacy policy.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


We'll help you taste Italy Mexico California Hawaii Mexico France Spain the world

We specialize in food-focused experiences in the most interesting culinary regions of the world.

We host unique small group trips to California, Italy, and Mexico from Sicily to Oaxaca.

Our tailored-to-you trip planning services help you make the most of your trip.