Panna Cotta is a luxurious and creamy Italian dessert that is surprisingly simple to make with just a few basic ingredients. This dessert is made with cream and thickened with gelatin, resulting in a smooth and velvety texture similar to pudding.

Creamy desserts you may also enjoy include this creamy small batch banana pudding, mini banana cream pie, and the popular strawberry rhubarb cheesecake for one.

Chilled dessert glass filled with Panna Cotta topped with jam.

What is Panna Cotta

The name “panna cotta” translates to “cooked cream,” although it is not cooked traditionally. The cream, sugar, and other ingredients are warmed on the stove until the gelatin dissolves, causing the mixture to thicken. It is often served with fresh fruit or a fruit sauce for a delicious contrast in flavor and texture.

Ingredients Notes

Heavy cream, milk, sugar, gelatin, and vanilla on textured white board.

With so few ingredients you want to use the best quality available to you.

  • Cream: The cream used should be of high quality and preferably have a fat content of at least 35%.
    • Heavy cream: is a common option for and has a rich and creamy texture. It contains at least 36% milk fat and is readily available in most supermarkets.
    • Whipping cream: This cream has a slightly lower fat content of around 30%, which makes it lighter than heavy cream. It’s a good option if you prefer a lighter panna cotta.
    • Double cream: This cream is very rich, with a fat content of at least 48%. It’s an excellent choice if you want an indulgent and creamy Panna Cotta.
    • Half-and-half: This cream is a combination of milk and cream, with a fat content of around 12%. It’s a good option if you want a lighter slightly less creamy texture.
  • Milk: Whole milk will give you the best flavor.
  • Sugar: Plain white granulated sugar.
  • Vanilla extract: use a pure vanilla extract, do not use imitation.
  • Gelatin: You will need to use gelatin as a thickener to set the cream mixture. Powdered gelatin is typically added to cold liquid and allowed to bloom, or swell and soften, before being dissolved in warm liquid.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Panna Cotta is a dessert that is incredibly easy to make.
  • This recipe is designed to yield the perfect amount for one person. However, the recipe can easily be doubled.
  • To make this recipe, you’ll need just a few simple ingredients, making it easy to whip up a batch whenever you’re in the mood for a delicious, creamy dessert.
  • This recipe is carefully crafted to ensure that the Panna Cotta perfectly sets every time. The result is a dessert that is silky smooth, subtly sweet, and delicately flavored with vanilla.

Overall, this classic Panna Cotta recipe is a great option for anyone looking for an easy and elegant dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth.

How to serve Panna Cotta


You don’t need to have fancy dessert dishes to enjoy it; you can use a shallow champagne glass, a small mason jar, a pretty coffee cup, or a simple ramekin. I purchased Tiramisu in adorable little glass cups and use those most for these types of desserts. I also save my glass yogurt cups!

Alternately, once the Panna Cotta has set and firmed up in the refrigerator, you can eat it directly out of the dish it’s in. If you prefer to unmold it, make sure to lightly spray the dish you’re using to chill it in with a neutral-flavored oil like canola or vegetable oil. This will help the Panna Cotta release easily from the dish without breaking.

Ingredients You Need


3 tablespoons whole milk
¾ teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Panna Cotta Instructions

Saucepan with warm milk and sprinkling of powdered gelatin.

Pour the milk into a small saucepan about 1 quart in size, and sprinkle the gelatin over the milk. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until the gelatin has dissolved slightly. It will look a little like jelly.

Milk warming in small saucepan.

Warm the milk over low heat, stirring or whisking frequently for about 1 minutes. Do not let the milk boil or simmer, the gelatin will dissolve quickly as the milk warms.

Milk, cream, sugar warming in small saucepan.

Stir the sugar into the milk and add the cream. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, which should take 3 to 4 minutes. Cook just until the simmer point, yo will see the steam rising from the saucepan.

Milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla warming in small saucepan.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Chilled dessert glass filled with Panna Cotta topped with jam.

Pour the mixture into individual ramekins or dessert bowls and chill until firm for at least 2 hours, but possibly up to 4 hours. You can eat it right out of the individual serving dish.

Can I make Panna Cotta ahead of time?

Yes, this is an excellent make-ahead dessert as it needs to be chilled for a few hours to set. You can prepare the mixture and pour it into individual serving dishes up to 2-3 days in advance.

Once set, cover the Panna Cotta tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Panna Cotta can be served chilled or at room temperature, so you can take it out of the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before serving to allow it to soften slightly.


Why isn’t my Panna Cotta thickening?

It could be due to a few different reasons:

  • The gelatin may have dissolved partially in the milk, or you may have used too little gelatin. Make sure to use fresh gelatin and follow the instructions for dissolving it in the milk. Also, be sure to use the correct amount of gelatin, as specified in the recipe.
  • The milk and cream mixture may not have been heated enough. Make sure to heat the milk over low heat until it is warm, and the gelatin has dissolved completely.
  • The ratio of milk to gelatin may need to be corrected. Adjust the proportions of milk and gelatin in the recipe to achieve the desired texture.
  • The Panna Cotta may have been chilled for a short time. It needs at least 2-4 hours to set and thicken in the refrigerator. If you’re in a hurry, you can place it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to speed up the process.

Remember that this is a delicate dessert, and getting the texture just right can take some practice. If your Panna Cotta doesn’t thicken the first time, don’t be discouraged. Just try again and adjust the recipe accordingly.

How Do You Unmold A Panna Cotta?

Before pouring the mixture into the ramekins, lightly grease them with a neutral-flavored oil such as canola or vegetable oil. This makes it easier to remove the Panna Cotta later.

Once the Panna Cotta has set in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours, remove it from the fridge and run a sharp knife around the edges of the ramekin to loosen the Panna Cotta from the sides.

Fill a bowl with warm water and carefully dip the ramekin in the water for about 5 seconds. Be careful not to submerge the entire ramekin, as this could melt the Panna Cotta.

Take the ramekin out of the water and gently shake it to loosen the Panna Cotta from the bottom. Place a plate over the top of the ramekin and flip it over so the Panna Cotta falls onto the plate.

If the Panna Cotta does not come out easily, you can dip the ramekin in the warm water for a few more seconds or use a thin spatula to release it from the sides of the ramekin gently.

Once the Panna Cotta is on the plate, garnish it with your favorite toppings, such as fresh fruit or whipped cream, and serve immediately.

Remember, unmolding a Panna Cotta can be tricky, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfectly the first time. With practice, you’ll be able to achieve the perfect Panna Cotta every time.


What can I substitute for heavy Cream?

Half-and-half is a lighter version of cream that contains about 12% fat and is okay to use as a substitute for heavy cream in a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that the texture and flavor of your Panna Cotta may be slightly different than if you had used heavy cream.

You can also use whole milk as a substitute for heavy cream, but the texture and richness of your Panna Cotta will be reduced. Use a 1:1 ratio of whole milk to heavy cream, and be sure to chill it for a longer period of time to achieve a firmer texture.

If you prefer a tangy taste and want to lower the calorie count, you can also use Greek yogurt as a substitute for heavy cream. Use a 1:1 ratio, but add a little more sugar to balance the tartness.

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Chilled dessert glass filled with Panna Cotta topped with jam.

Single Serving Panna Cotta

Single Serving Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert known for its indulgent and creamy texture, can be surprisingly easy to whip up using only a handful of simple ingredients. By combining cream with gelatin as a thickening agent, this dessert achieves a smooth and velvety consistency akin to pudding.
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Course: Dessert for One
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Chilling Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 17 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 387kcal
Author:Sydney Dawes
Cost: 1.50

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • ¾ teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Pour the milk into a small saucepan about 1 quart in size, and sprinkle the gelatin over the milk. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes or until the gelatin has dissolved slightly. It will look a little like jelly.
  • Warm the milk over low heat, stirring or whisking frequently for about 1 minutes. Do not let the milk boil or simmer, the gelatin will dissolve quickly as the milk warms.
  • Stir the sugar into the milk and add the cream. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, which should take 3 to 4 minutes. Cook just until the simmer point, yo will see the steam rising from the saucepan.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour the mixture into individual ramekin or dessert bowl and chill until firm for at least 2 hours, but possibly up to 4 hours. You can eat it right out of the individual serving dish.

Notes

  • Panna cotta can be served in individual molds or glass dishes. To unmold, dip the ramekins in hot water and use a warm offset spatula to help release the panna cotta smoothly.
  • You can use extracts like almond or maple instead of vanilla beans. You can also experiment with different citrus peels to add unique aromas.
  • Panna cotta is an ideal make-ahead dessert. It can be refrigerated for up to 2 days to set perfectly. Similarly, roasted fruits can be prepared in advance and spooned on top when serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 387kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 29g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 90mg | Sodium: 44mg | Sugar: 28g
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