Classic Panna Cotta Recipe

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Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert that is creamy, silky, and luxurious. This classic Italian recipe is a fantastic make-ahead dessert for dinner parties or an afternoon treat.

This is the best classic panna cotta recipe you can make at home! Serve after enjoying Best Baked Chicken Thighs Recipe.

side view of panna cotta and berries in a glass cup to se layers. fresh berries as decoration.
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What is Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert originating in the region of Piedmont in Italy. The name “panna cotta” translates to “cooked cream” in Italian, accurately describing the dessert.

Panna cotta is made by simmering together cream, sugar, and flavorings such as vanilla or espresso, then thickening the mixture with powdered gelatin. The mixture is then poured into ramekins or other small containers and chilled until set. The dessert is smooth, creamy, and often served with fresh berries and fruit compote.

Panna cotta is a versatile dessert that can be flavored in many different ways (see variations). It is also relatively simple to make, requiring only a few ingredients and minimal preparation time.

Panna cotta cups with berry puree and berries on a tray. Fresh mint to decorate.
ingredient shot for recipe.

Simple Ingredients

With a few basic ingredients, you will have a delicious dessert in little time!

Classic Vanilla Panna Cotta

  • Heavy cream: Panna cotta is made with heavy cream or whipping cream, giving the dessert a rich and creamy texture.
  • Sugar: Sugar is used to sweeten the cream and give the panna cotta its desired level of sweetness.
  • Gelatin: is added to the cream mixture to thicken it and help it set into a firm texture.
  • Vanilla extract (optional almond extract): Vanilla bean extract is added for flavor and to enhance the sweetness of the dessert.

Easy Berry Sauce

  • Mixed Berries
  • Water
  • Lemon juice
  • Cornstarch

See recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- ingredients for the berry puree.
side view of panna cotta and berries in a glass cup to se layers. fresh berries as decoration.

How To Make Panna Cotta

You will be surprised at how easy it is to make this dessert! This easy panna cotta recipe comes together quickly and looks like a fancy restaurant-worthy dessert—an elegant way to impress your guests with this easy dessert recipe.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- letting the gelatin rest with water.

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a single layer and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the gelatin dissolves and softens.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- adding sugar to cream.

Heat the heavy cream and sugar over medium heat in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- adding gelatin and vanilla.

Add in the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- whisking ingredients in pot.

Once the cream mixture is steaming hot (but not boiling), remove it from the heat and add the softened gelatin mixture. Stir with a whisk until the gelatin dissolves completely- 2-3 minutes.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- pouring ingredients in cups.

Divide the hot cream mixture evenly among 4-6 individual ramekins, wine glasses, or dessert cups (servings will vary depending on the size of the serving cups). Allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- letting panna cotta chill in the fridge.

Cover tops with plastic wrap and let the panna cotta set in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Once the panna cotta has set, run a knife around the edges of the cups and turn them over onto a serving plate to unmold. You can also serve them directly in the cups.
Serve the panna cotta with your choice of toppings, such as fresh berries, berry sauce (recipe below), chocolate shavings, or caramel sauce.

Making the berry puree. Adding the sugar and berries in a pot.

Combine the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Making the berry puree. Adding the sugar and berries in a pot. Cooking sugar and berries.

Stir frequently and cook until the berries begin to break down, about 5-7 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the berry mixture and stir to combine.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens

Making the berry puree. Blending cooked berries.

Remove the saucepan from heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. To achieve a puree texture put the berry mixture in a blender and pulse until completely smooth. 

Finished berry puree ready to add to the panna cotta.
How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- panna cotta after it is chilled.

Once cooled, spoon the berry sauce over the top of your panna cotta and serve.

How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy- adding berry sauce on top of the chilled panna cotta.

Serve with extra berries and fresh mint if desired.

Panna cotta cups with berry puree and berries on a tray. Fresh mint to decorate.

Recipe Variations

While the traditional Italian panna cotta recipe is delicious on its own, you can also experiment with different flavors and variations to create unique and exciting desserts. Here are a few flavor variations:

  1. Chocolate Panna Cotta: Add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder to the cream and sugar mixture and stir until fully combined. Follow the same recipe as above.
  2. Coffee Panna Cotta: Add 2 tbsp of instant coffee powder to the cream and sugar mixture and stir until fully combined. Follow the same recipe as above.
  3. Matcha Panna Cotta: Add 1 tbsp of matcha powder to the cream and sugar mixture and stir until fully combined. Follow the same recipe as above.
  4. Coconut Panna Cotta: Replace the heavy cream with coconut milk and add 1/2 cup of shredded coconut to the mixture. Follow the same recipe as above.
  5. Fruit-flavored Panna Cotta: Add your choice of pureed fruit (such as strawberry, raspberry, mango or passionfruit) to the cream and sugar mixture before heating. Follow the same recipe as above.
  6. Spiced Panna Cotta: Add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom to the cream and sugar mixture before heating to create a warm and fragrant dessert.
  7. Toppings: vary your toppings for the panna cotta. You can top it with a caramel sauce, raspberry sauce, fruit coulis, melted chocolate, or a variety of fresh fruit sauces. There are so many good options you can’t go wrong!

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but there are endless possibilities to this popular dessert. Experiment with different flavor combinations to create your own unique and delicious panna cotta recipe.

side view of panna cotta and berries in a glass cup to se layers. fresh berries as decoration. Set on wooden tray.

Equipment

Storage Instructions

To store Italian panna cotta, follow these simple steps:

  • Cover the panna cotta: Once the panna cotta has set, cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will help to keep it fresh and prevent it from absorbing any other flavors in the fridge.
  • Refrigerate: Store the panna cotta in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Make sure to keep it in a tightly sealed container to prevent it from drying out or absorbing any unwanted flavors.
  • Serve chilled: When ready to serve the panna cotta, remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature for about 5-10 minutes. Then, serve it chilled with your desired toppings or sauces.
  • Do not freeze: I don’t recommend freezing panna cotta as the texture will change and become grainy.

It’s best to consume panna cotta within a few days of making it to ensure the best flavor and texture. You can enjoy this delicious Italian dessert whenever you like by storing it properly.

side view of panna cotta and berries in a glass cup to se layers. fresh berries as decoration. Bite taken out of the panna cotta on spoon.

Top tips

Here are some top tips for making Italian panna cotta:

  • Use quality ingredients: Since panna cotta has a simple flavor profile, it’s important to use high-quality ingredients to get the best flavor. Use fresh cream, good-quality vanilla extract, and high-quality gelatin.
  • Don’t overheat the cream: When heating the cream, be careful not to let it come to a boil. This can cause the cream to curdle and result in a grainy texture.
  • Use the right amount of gelatin: It’s important to use the right amount to ensure that the dessert sets properly. Too little gelatin can produce a runny texture, while too much gelatin can make the panna cotta rubbery.
  • Let the panna cotta set properly: Once you’ve poured the mixture into the molds, let it set in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will give the dessert enough time to set properly and have a smooth texture.
  • Unmold the panna cotta properly: To unmold the panna cotta, run a knife around the edge of the mold to loosen it, then dip the mold in hot water for a few seconds. This will help the panna cotta release from the mold more easily.
  • Serve the panna cotta chilled: Panna cotta is best served chilled, so keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

By following these tips, you can make a delicious and silky Italian panna cotta that will impress your guests.

side view of panna cotta and berries in a glass cup to se layers. fresh berries as decoration. Bite taken out of the panna cotta on spoon.

FAQs

Can I use milk instead of cream to make panna cotta?

While milk can be used to make panna cotta, it will result in a lighter and less creamy texture compared to using heavy cream.

Can I make panna cotta without gelatin?

Gelatin is a key ingredient in panna cotta as it helps it set into a firm texture. However, there are some vegetarian and vegan substitutes for gelatin, such as agar agar or carrageenan, can be used.

Why is my panna cotta grainy?

Panna cotta can become grainy if the cream mixture is overheated or if too much gelatin is used. Be sure to follow the recipe instructions carefully and avoid overheating the cream.

Can I use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar?

Yes, honey or maple syrup can be used as a substitute for sugar, but they will give the panna cotta a different flavor and may affect the texture.

Can I use other flavors instead of vanilla extract?

Yes, panna cotta can be flavored with various extracts, such as almond, coconut, or orange, or other ingredients like espresso or chocolate.

Why Is My Panna Cotta Not Setting?

It’s important to use the right amount to ensure that the dessert sets properly; too little gelatin can produce a runny texture. It also needs at least 4 hours in the fridge to set properly.

Why Did My Panna Cotta Separate Into Two Layers?

Most likely the gelatin didn’t bloom and dissolve properly when stirred into the cream or the cream mixture boiled after the gelatin was added.

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What to Serve with Italian Panna Cotta Recipe

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Panna Cotta Recipe

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How to Make Classic Italian Panna Cotta Recipe Easy– Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert that is creamy, silky, and luxurious. This classic Italian recipe is a fantastic make-ahead dessert for dinner parties or an afternoon treat.

  • Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes (includes chilling time)
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

Panna Cotta 

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Easy Berry Sauce

  • 2 cups of mixed berries or only use one variety (such as strawberries and raspberries, or mixed frozen berries)
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup of water

Instructions

Panna Cotta

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a single layer and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until the gelatin dissolves and softens.
  2. Heat the heavy cream and sugar over medium heat in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add in the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  3. Once the cream mixture is steaming hot (but not boiling), remove it from the heat and add the softened gelatin mixture. Stir with a whisk until the gelatin dissolves completely- 2-3 minutes.
  4. Divide the hot cream mixture evenly among 4-6 individual ramekins, wine glasses, or dessert cups (servings will vary depending on the size of the serving cups). Allow to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Cover tops with plastic wrap and let the panna cotta set in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  5. Once the panna cotta has set, run a knife around the edges of the cups and turn them over onto a serving plate to unmold. You can also serve them directly in the cups.
  6. Serve the panna cotta with your choice of toppings, such as fresh berries, berry sauce (recipe below), chocolate shavings, or caramel sauce.

Easy Berry Sauce

  1. Combine the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir frequently and cook until the berries begin to break down, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water until smooth.
  4. Add the cornstarch mixture to the berry mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  6. Remove the saucepan from heat and let the sauce cool to room temperature. To achieve a puree texture put the berry mixture in a blender and pulse until completely smooth. 
  7. Once cooled, spoon the berry sauce over the top of your panna cotta and serve.

This berry sauce is a delicious and simple way to add some fruity flavor and color to your panna cotta dessert.

Enjoy your delicious and creamy classic Italian panna cotta!

Notes

Here are some top tips for making Italian panna cotta:

  1. Use quality ingredients: Since panna cotta has a simple flavor profile, it’s important to use high-quality ingredients to get the best flavor. Use fresh cream, good quality vanilla extract, and high-quality gelatin.

  2. Don’t overheat the cream: When heating the cream, be careful not to let it come to a boil. This can cause the cream to curdle and result in a grainy texture.

  3. Use the right amount of gelatin: The amount of gelatin used in panna cotta can vary depending on the recipe, but it’s important to use the right amount to ensure that the dessert sets properly. Too little gelatin can result in a runny texture, while too much gelatin can make the panna cotta rubbery.

  4. Let the panna cotta set properly: Once you’ve poured the mixture into the molds, let it set in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will give the dessert enough time to set properly and have a smooth texture.

  5. Unmold the panna cotta properly: To unmold the panna cotta, run a knife around the edge of the mold to loosen it, then dip the mold in hot water for a few seconds. This will help the panna cotta release from the mold more easily.

  6. Serve the panna cotta chilled: Panna cotta is best served chilled, so keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to make a delicious and silky Italian panna cotta that will impress your guests.

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Sweet
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

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About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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3 Comments

  1. This was excellent. Very easy to make. We made the berry sauce with blueberries and blackberries. My husband and son absolutely loved it and so did the dog and cat 😉. They would come running when we were enjoying it!