As we've discussed before, panna cotta is one of the most classic Italian desserts out there. It comes from the Northwestern region of Piedmont where it's one of the most iconic recipes from the area.
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.
There 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 then add any sauces once we serve it.
At its most classic, the basic panna cotta mixture is simply heavy cream that gets simmered with sugar and vanilla then whisked together with gelatin. If you're searching for an easy panna cotta recipe it must be said that the dessert is inherently easy to make.
But that doesn't mean all versions of the dessert are created equal. The key to making the best panna cotta is to get quality ingredients and to follow a few tips:
Almost every time we make this dessert, someone either calls it custard or asks if it's just Italian creme brulee. While creme brulee 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 and therefore is not a custard and is not related to creme brulee. Got it? Good!
When it comes to 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. As such this classic dessert from Piedmont is delicious with dessert wines from the same Italian region.
This recipe was shared with us by chef Pietro Visconti from Milan. And, since we all wish we could be sipping wine while traveling around Italy, we're partnering with Luca Bosio wines to offer you the next best thing: a giveaway for the chance to cook with chef Pietro himself.
Okay, now it's time to stock up your pantry with all the Italian essential ingredients, then try your hand at making this.
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split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
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).
FYI the gelatin may seize up into a jelly-like blob. Don't worry about it -- you'll just want to whisk it into the cream mixture well.
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.
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