Panna Cotta

Silky and creamy vanilla Panna Cotta is a showstopper dessert sure to turn heads, but is actually quite easy to make!

Panna Cotta is a delicious dessert similar to a vanilla pudding, but much more fancy! Keep the posh going with a tasty Crème Brulee or Chocolate Lava Cake.

Raspberry sauce a top a vanilla panna cotta topped with fresh berries.

what is panna cotta?

Panna Cotta comes from Italy and means “cooked cream”. This silky Italian dessert is made from a mixture of cream/milk, sugar, and gelatin to hold its form.

It is often flavored and topped with a chocolate or fruit sauce. Unlike custard and flan, both of which use eggs, Panna Cotta is a cream based dessert.

This delicious treat has a pudding like texture that is simply heavenly. While this may seem daunting, it’s actually quite simple to make! Just follow the directions closely, and you’ll be a star baker in no time. 😉

This Panna Cotta recipe uses vanilla flavoring with a raspberry for a pop of brightness, but you could easily change it up. I’ve shared many flavor options below, so be sure to check them out!

Boiling milk for panna cotta image.

how to make panna cotta

GELATIN. In a small bowl, add milk and gelatin powder. Stir together and set aside.

MILK. Add heavy cream and sugar to a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring together.

Bring mixture to boil. The cream will quickly rise to the top of the pan, so be careful, but as soon as the mixture is boiling, add the gelatin and milk, stirring until dissolved. Cook for one minute making sure to stir constantly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in vanilla.

COOL. Pour into 4 cups (or for smaller servings, 6 ramekins). Let the cups cool at room temp, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

RASPBERRY SAUCE. Once your panna cottas have chilled, make raspberry sauce. To make sauce, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the raspberry seeds.

GARNISH + SERVE! Spoon a few tablespoons of the raspberry sauce over the top and garnish with fresh berries.

Raspberry sauce ingredients to garnish panna cotta.

flavor variations

Panna Cotta can also be made with other flavor variations as well. You can also add flavor according to what sauce and fruits you add to the tops.

  • This recipe uses a raspberry sauce, but you could substitute the raspberries for fresh strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries.
  • If you have a favorite berry sauce recipe you could use that instead of the posted raspberry sauce.
  • Don’t add warm sauce, otherwise it will melt right through the panna cotta.
  • Use a chocolate or caramel sauce.
  • Top with shaved chocolate, toasted coconut, fresh fruits.

How to steep in flavor: If you wish, you can steep flavor directly into the heavy cream. For example for a vanilla Panna Cotta you would add a split vanilla bean pod to the heavy cream.

  • Cover and let it steep (soak) in the fridge for up to 24 hours depending on how intense you want the flavor to be.
  • It is important to taste the cream every 1-2 hours so that you don’t over flavor it.
  • Once you have the right flavor, strain the cream to remove all aspects of the bean.
  • Other flavors you can steep include citrus peels, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, lavender buds, etc… This method can be trial and error to get just the right flavor. When using new flavoring ingredients, keep notes and record any adjustments for next time.
Making raspberry sauce for vanilla panna cotta.

recipe troubleshooting

How to make panna cotta set faster?

  • The only cooling trick I would recommend is to have a bowl of ice water ready. After step 4 place the saucepan into the ice water (be sure that the water doesn’t NOT get into the panna cotta) Whisk in the vanilla. The ice water will help the panna cotta cool a bit before you pour it into the cups and chill in the fridge.
  • If you want to cool it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes you can, then transfer it to the fridge. DON’T forget about it. Further exposure to the freezer will cause it to chill unevenly. 

Why panna cotta doesn’t set?

  • The job of the gelatin is to set this dessert. If it fails, then the dessert won’t set.
  • One reason that the gelatin fails is that it gets overheated. In step 5 add the milk and gelatin just before the mixture reaches a boil. Do not let it get to a rolling boil. You really just need it hot enough, and to stir long enough, for the sugar and gelatin to dissolve.
  • Another reason gelatin fails is that it was dissolved well enough. The gelatin begins blooming in step 1 and continues to dissolve into the mixture in step 5.
  • Give it time to chill. It needs at least 4 hours, but it often takes up to 8 hours.

Why did my panna cotta split? When warm, the fat in the cream will want to rise to the top creating a watery layer and a creamy layer. To help keep this from happening you want to keep whisking the cream mixture while letting it cool a bit.

Placing the hot saucepan into a bowl of ice water while mixing in the vanilla helps it cool enough to keep the layers from separating.

Panna cotta recipe process images.

Panna Cotta FAQ

Can panna cotta be made without gelatin? Some Panna Cotta recipes can be made using egg whites and then baked. However, this recipe needs gelatin. Be sure that you buy unflavored gelatin and NOT Jell-O.

Can panna cotta be made in one large bowl?

  • Invert dip the bottom of the dish into hot water for a few seconds. Turn the dish over above a dessert plate. The panna cotta should fall right out. Top with sauce or fruit.
  • You may need to run a knife along the side of the dish to help release the panna cotta.
  • If you wish you can make one large panna cotta instead of individual servings. You will need a much longer chill time to ensure that it sets correctly. Invert the large panna cotta onto a plate. You can add sauce and fruits before you serve it, or add it after you have placed slices onto smaller plates.
Raspberry sauce being poured over Panna Cotta.

how to store

Panna Cotta MUST be made in advance. It requires such a long chill time that I recommend making this the day before you want to serve it.

FREEZE: Even though you should avoid using the freezer to chill the panna cotta, you can store it in the freezer for later. Wrap each panna cotta tightly with plastic wrap and again with foil. Label and free for up to 2 months. Thaw them in the fridge.

STORE: Cover the panna cotta and it will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge.

Ways to serve Panna Cotta: Panna cotta is typically served as individual portions. You can serve it inside a dish or invert it onto a plate.

Raspberry sauce topped vanilla panna cotta with fresh berries.

For more fancy desserts, check out:

Panna Cotta

5 from 2 votes
Silky and creamy vanilla Panna Cotta is a showstopper dessert sure to turn heads, but is actually quite easy to make!
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 698 kcal
Author Lil’ Luna

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup skim milk room temperature
  • 1 (.25oz) envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Raspberry Sauce

  • 1 (6 oz) continer fresh raspberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • fresh berries for topping

Instructions
 

  • In a small bowl, add milk and gelatin powder. Stir together and set aside.
  • Add heavy cream and sugar to a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring together.
  • Bring mixture to boil. The cream will quickly rise to the top of the pan, so be careful, but as soon as the mixture is boiling, add the gelatin and milk, stirring until dissolved. Cook for one minute making sure to stir constantly.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in vanilla.
  • Pour into 4 cups (or for smaller servings, 6 ramekins).
  • Let the cups cool at room temp, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Once panna cotta has chilled, make raspberry sauce. To make sauce, add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the raspberry seeds.
  • Pour the raspberry sauce over the top and garnish with fresh berries.

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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Comments:

  1. Delicious! I often triple or quadruple the recipe for large family gatherings; I also usually split the panna cotta into smaller plastic cups so it’s a smaller serving. It’s the best dessert to make in advance! Highly recommend!