Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian dessert that’s rich, creamy and so incredibly delicious. Literally translated, panna cotta means “cooked cream” and as the name suggests it is made from heavy cream cooked slowly over low heat, sweetened with sugar and thickened with gelatin. The beauty of panna cotta is in its simplicity and ability to turn basic ingredients into something magical. This old school Italian recipe only includes the necessary ingredients, creating a panna cotta that stays true to its roots.
Here the basic recipe gets fancied up with a delicious mixed wild berry puree, layered in small glasses, adapted from Giallo Zafferano in this post. The lovely presentation is high impact, an impressive dessert to serve to guests! Putting the dessert in single serving glasses not only looks amazing, but it takes the guess work out of removing the panna cotta from a mold, as it is frequently served.
In addition to tasting and looking amazing, preparing panna cotta is actually much easier than you might think. The hardest part, aside from removing it from a mold, is waiting for it to set so you can eat it! The three key aspects to creating a perfect panna cotta: don’t overheat, don’t overcook, and allow everything to dissolve completely. If you follow that advice, we promise you’ll be reaching for seconds.
Panna Cotta with Wild Berries
For the Panna Cotta:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 packet powdered gelatin
- 1 whole vanilla bean
For the Mixed Wild Berry Filling:
- 3 cups ripe blueberries
- 1 cup ripe blackberries
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- juice from 1 lemon
Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the surface of the cream. Let it sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom (it should form a sheet over the surface). In the meantime prepare the vanilla bean by cutting a vertical slit down the middle so as to easily remove the seeds from inside and then set aside.
After the gelatin has bloomed put the saucepan over low heat on the stove and stir frequently until the gelatin completely dissolves in the cream. Once the gelatin has dissolved, add the sugar and the vanilla bean along with the seeds and stir. Continue cooking the cream over low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. The entire process of cooking the cream to dissolve the gelatin and sugar should only take approximately 10 minutes. The important thing to keep in mind is to be sure not to cook the cream on too high of heat – the cream should never boil, simmer or even steam.
Remove the vanilla bean after the sugar has dissolved and pour equal, small amounts of the panna cotta into each serving glass. Place the glasses in the refrigerator for 2 hours to allow the cream to thicken. Set aside the pan with the remaining amount of panna cotta to be used later. Meanwhile, prepare the mixed berry filling by rinsing the berries thoroughly. Dry off and put them in a blender along with the sugar and squeezed juice of one lemon. Blend on a low setting for a few seconds until pureed with remaining bits of fruit. Put the berry puree in the refrigerator to thicken.
When 2 hours have passed for the cream to set, spoon small equal amounts of the berry filling on top of the panna cotta in the glasses. Pour the remainder of the cream still in the pan on top of the berries in equal amounts. (If it has already begun to thicken or set, you can reheat it on low heat to bring it back to a liquid consistency.) Place the finished glasses of panna cotta back in the refrigerator for an additional 2 hours to allow the top layer to set. Once the dessert is ready, garnish with fresh wild berries and serve.
The recipe makes approximately ten 4 ounce servings of panna cotta and will remain fresh in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.