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There are few final dinner party flourishes as elegant as homemade panna cotta. The creamy Italian dessert requires very little effort and delivers a stunning, tasty payoff.



What Is Panna Cotta?

Panna cotta, Italian for “cooked cream,” is a dessert made with lightly sweetened milk and cream, which is then chilled and set with gelatin in small bowls or ramekins. The creamy dessert has the consistency of an airy custard or pudding. Before serving, panna cotta is commonly inverted onto a small plate, though it can also be eaten straight from the ramekin with a spoon.

The cream base of the panna cotta can incorporate any number of additional flavorings (vanilla is the most common). Panna cotta toppings can include everything from fresh fruit coulis to a drizzle or coating of caramel sauce, similar to a flan or crème caramel.

What Does Panna Cotta Taste Like?

Panna cotta is all about the mouthfeel: The smooth, velvety cream has enough tension to hold up to a spoon but melts in the mouth. The best panna cotta has an understated character, highlighting the inherent sweetness of the dairy and the warmth from a fresh vanilla bean. Panna cotta shouldn’t be cloying, or heavy. The creamy dessert naturally complements tart, fresh toppings as well as stronger, sweeter ones.

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Classic Panna Cotta Recipe

Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
4 hr 21 min
Cook Time
6 min


  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 ½ sheets of gelatin
  • ½ vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract), seeds scraped out and set aside
  • ⅛ teaspoon of salt
  • Fresh berries like raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries, for serving
  1. First, blot a paper towel with a small amount of olive oil, and lightly grease the inside of the ramekins.
  2. Pour milk into a small saucepan. Place the gelatin sheets on top, and allow to soften for about 4 minutes.
  3. Warm saucepan over medium-low heat to completely dissolve gelatin, whisking frequently for another 2 minutes or so. Add the sugar, and continue whisking to incorporate. If the milk begins to steam, lower heat.
  4. Remove the sweetened milk from the stove, and stir in the heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and salt.
  5. Carefully pour the panna cotta mixture into single-serve ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (If planning on inverting them, wait at least 4 hours.)
  6. If inverting, prepare a shallow bowl halfway filled with hot water. Run a small offset spatula around the rim of the panna cotta to loosen slightly; place ramekins in the water bath for 5 seconds. Remove, and place a small serving plate upside down over the opening of the ramekin. Carefully invert, holding the plate in place, and slowly lift the ramekin, wiggling it slightly to encourage the panna cotta to unstick. If it doesn’t work, return briefly to the water bath and try again.
  7. Serve with fresh berries.

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