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Panna Cotta: the traditional Italian panna cotta recipe for a molded chilled dessert

Total time: 50 Min + Chilling time
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist

Panna cotta is a molded chilled Italian dessert, a classic recipe in Italy and now popular worldwide. This spoon dessert is made and sweetened with cream and sugar, and flavored with vanilla, while the gelatin is important to thicken the panna cotta and hold its shape.

Created for the first time in the early 20th century, the Italian name panna cotta means "cooked cream" in English. With a silky, pudding-like texture, you can enjoy panna cotta straight from its cup or serve it unmolded upside-down at the end of a meal, for a dinner with friends or a special occasion, or as a delicious snack. It is best to make panna cotta ahead of time and serve it only at the last moment as it has to thicken and set as much as possible.

You can customize this dessert recipe in many ways, in the base and in the topping. We garnished panna cotta with a chocolate syrup and sprigs of currant, which with their sour note will enhance the sweetness of the dessert, but you can use your imagination.

Here you will find the classic recipe in single-portion version, but, you can opt to use a single larger mold. The indicated doses are suitable for a mold with a capacity of about 600 milliliters of liquid, 4 molds of 150 milliliters or 6 molds of 100 milliliters. So let’s find out how to make this delicious panna cotta by following our step-by-step recipe.

Panna Cotta vs. Crème Brûlée

Panna cotta and crème brûlée are two quite different recipes, although they may seem similar. Panna cotta is an Italian dessert made from gelatin and sweet cream. On the other hand, crème brûlée is a French dessert made with eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla. Basically, crème brûlée does not use gelatin as a thickening agent but eggs. Moreover, crème brûlée is served with a topping of caramel burned with a blowtorch, while panna cotta can be customized in the topping.

Panna Cotta vs. Crème Caramel

Panna cotta and crème caramel have a very similar texture, but are still two different recipes. Instead of using gelatin to thicken the dessert as in panna cotta, crème caramel adds eggs to make the texture smooth and compact.

Panna Cotta Variations

The base can also undergo variations in ingredients and aromas. You can make the panna cotta without gelatin by replacing it with egg whites.

You can flavor the panna cotta with Experiment with mangocoffee, or cappuccino.

You can replace currants with other fresh seasonal fruit, such as blueberries or mixed berries, or top the panna cotta with a caramel sauce, a strawberry coulis or a pistachio cream.

It is possible to replace part of the fresh cream with milk and the gelatine sheets with egg white.


For this recipe, use plain, unflavored gelatin.

Don't forget to soak gelatin in water, otherwise the panna cotta couldn't thicken enough.

Let the panna cotta set in the refrigerator. Avoid freezer as it won't set properly.

How to store Panna Cotta

Panna cotta can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, covered on the surface with a sheet of cling film or in a special hermetically sealed container.

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for the panna cotta
Fresh cream
500 ml
Powdered sugar
100 g
gelatine sheet
8 g
1 bean
for the topping
syrup of your choice
fresh fruit

How to make Panna Cotta

Dip the gelatine sheets in a bowl with cold water and let them soak for at least 10 minutes.

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and remove the internal seeds with the tip of a knife.

Collect the cream and sugar in a saucepan, mix with a whisk and add the seeds of the vanilla bean, mix more and put on the fire.

Also add the vanilla bean and let it cook until the mixture becomes very hot and on the edge of the boil, then turn off the heat and remove the bean.

Squeeze out the now soft gelatin sheet.

Immediately dip the gelatin sheet in the hot cream and mix until completely dissolved.

Run the molds under running water, drain and let them moist. Then place them on a rigid support such as a tray or cutting board.

Distribute the panna cotta inside the molds, reaching the brim. Transfer to the refrigerator and let it rest for at least 6 hours.

After the resting time has elapsed, pass the blade of a pointed knife over the edges of the molds and remove the panna cotta.

If necessary, quickly immerse the molds in hot water, to make it easier to remove panna cotta from the molds, and put each panna cotta upside down on a dessert plate.

Top the panna cotta with the syrup and sprigs of currant, then serve and enjoy.

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