Panna cotta

Panna cotta

1 h
Panna cotta, meaning ‘cooked cream’ in Italian, is a smooth and delicious cream dessert from Italy. It is a very simple dessert based on cooked cream with sugar and vanilla. Serve with a tangy fruit coulis made from frozen berries – or fresh ones during summertime – to complement the sweet vanilla flavour and garnish with fresh lemon balm. It is an easy dessert to serve for guests as it is quick to made and may be prepared a day in advance, poured into small glasses, and kept in the refrigerator right up until it is time to garnish and serve it.


Panna cotta:
  • Soak gelatine in cold water for approx. 10 minutes until soft.
  • Slice the vanilla pod in half and scrape out the seeds.
  • Put cream, sugar, as well as vanilla seeds and pod into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil while stirring. Remove saucepan from heat when the sugar has dissolved.
  • Take the gelatine out of the water and put it into the warm cream mixture making sure you don’t have any water left in the gelantine. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved.
  • Pour the panna cotta into 4 glasses (about 2 dl) and place them, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Berry coulis:
  • Meanwhile, put berries and sugar in a saucepan. Let boil for 2 minutes at low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Let the berries cool.
  • Place the berry coulis on top of the panna cotta and garnish with lemon balm.

Getting the smooth mouthfeel and melt-in-the-mouth texture you would expect from this creamy dessert depends on getting it to set properly – i.e., mastering the gelatine. Make sure all gelatine leaves are completely covered in water without sticking together, maybe using a shallow dish or tray with a flat bottom. When the leaves are soft enough to use, after approx. 10 minutes, squeeze them to remove any excess water before mixing with the cream.


After adding it to the warm cream, stir until you are sure it is completely dissolved – otherwise you risk lumps in your dessert. Remember to never add gelatine to something that is still boiling as heating gelatine too much may diminish its setting properties considerably.

Questions about panna cotta

With just a few notes, it is quite easy to make the delicate Italian panna cotta. Read on to learn more about the dessert classic by looking into answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the traditional dessert.

What is panna cotta?
Panna cotta is a sweet and creamy popular Italian dessert. It is made from few, high-quality ingredients, cream, sugar, and vanilla, and set using gelatine. Though it is sometimes confused with the French crème brûlée or flan as they share core ingredients and may look similar, panna cotta is not a custard dessert as it does not contain any eggs but rather uses gelatine as a setting agent.
How to make panna cotta?
With our easy panna cotta recipe, you will have a delicious dessert ready in no time. Boil the cream mixture and whisk in soaked gelatine leaves, creating a smooth and creamy consistency. Place in glasses and leave to set in the refrigerator. Prepare the berry coulis and allow for this to cool as well. Serve your homemade dessert cold with berry coulis on top, garnished with lemon balm for a beautiful and elegant classic Italian treat.
Can you freeze panna cotta?
Panna cotta freezes very well. Simply make sure it is covered with cling film to protect it from forming a tough crust or taking on flavour from other foods in the freezer. This way, the dessert will keep for approx. 2 months. When you are ready to enjoy the dessert, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Letting it defrost at room temperature may lead the cream to split.
How long does panna cotta take to set?
The Italian classic usually sets in about 2-4 hours in the refrigerator. But leaving it in there for longer is not a bad idea. Though it might be tempting to speed up the process by attempting to let it set in the freezer, we do not recommend it. The much colder temperature of the freezer environment will make the outside of the dessert set more quickly than the inside, making the texture uneven, even after it thaws again.
How long does panna cotta last?
It is possible to make panna cotta a few days in advance. It will keep for up to 7 days if you keep it covered in the refrigerator. For the best flavour and texture, though, serve it within the first 3 days of making it. Gelatine may get firmer as it sits, making the texture a bit rubberier over time. Make sure to keep your dessert tightly wrapped to protect it from taking on flavour from other foodstuffs in your refrigerator.
How to serve panna cotta?
Since it is a moulded dessert, Italian panna cotta is usually either served in a small serving glass or ramekin. Alternatively, it is unmoulded, that is, turned out onto a plate. It is often served with a coulis of berries, a sauce made from chocolate, caramel, or coffee, fresh fruit or berries, or a liqueur. The cream dessert should be enjoyed cold so you can serve it straight from the refrigerator.


Panna cotta
2 sheets
Vanilla pod – seeds
Double cream
½ l
1 dl
Berry coulis
Frozen berries and strawberries
100 g
50 g
Lemon balm

Delicate Italian vanilla panna cotta

As it is, in essence, a simple cream dessert, you do not need many ingredients to be able to serve this Italian treat for your family or guests. It is a light and delicate dessert with a texture so smooth and creamy it almost seems to melt on your tongue. The fresh vanilla seeds add both a sweetness and depth of flavour to the cream dessert through its floral aroma. Leaving the vanilla pod itself in the cream while it cooks accentuates this beautiful flavour even further, highlighting why the vanilla flavour is a classic.

If you are looking for a similar dessert but with a twist in the form of a crispy, caramelised top layer of torched sugar, check out our classic French crème brûlée.

Impress with a panna cotta dessert with berry coulis

Making a homemade berry coulis to use as a topping for panna cotta is both quick and easy. Using a mix of berries like raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry works great as these slight tangy berries go well together. You can choose whatever berries you like, trying out different mixes or using just one flavour at a time. The flavours of berry coulis are sweet and vibrant, and it really brightens up the dish. Its colour is a deep purply-red, depending on the berries you use, giving it a beautiful look on top of the creamy-white dessert. The combination of flavours as well as colours is sure to impress friends and family.

Experiment with different flavours

As it is a dessert that may be aromatised with a myriad of different flavourings, we have curated a selection of some of the lovely ways to change up the ingredients. Use our basic recipe and add mango, chocolate, or strawberry to shake things up and try something new with a classic recipe.

Mango panna cotta

A mango panna cotta is a lovely fresh take on the classic. The sweetness of the cream and the fresh, tangy mango purée which is placed in the bottom of the dessert balance each other beautifully. Make your own purée from mango, orange juice, and sugar. Add lime leaves to the cream mixture as it cooks, to make this version of the cream dessert even brighter. Serve the mango panna cotta with finely chopped mango pieces, lime zest, and lemon balm and maybe even some freshly shaved coconut, for a truly exotic feeling.

Chocolate panna cotta

Flavouring desserts with chocolate is a classic, and you can use it in this cream dessert too. Because it is a naturally sweet dessert, it can even handle a very dark chocolate with a rich, intense flavour. Adding finely chopped chocolate to the cream dessert changes the texture slightly by making it a bit fluffier and mousse-like. Serve the decadent brown chocolate panna cotta with a dollop of whipped cream and your flavourful berry coulis.

If chocolate panna cotta sounds right up your alley, you might also want to check out our recipes for chocolate pudding and chocolate mousse, savouring even more of the intense, bold chocolate flavour.

Strawberry panna cotta

If you love sweet berries so much that using it for berry coulis is not enough, a strawberry panna cotta might be a hit for you. Adding puréed strawberries to the mixture works beautifully as the sweetness of the fresh strawberries and the warmth of the vanilla go perfectly together. The strawberry purée will also give the dessert a beautiful light-pink colour. Serve with green mint leaves on top or with a salad of fresh strawberries tossed with a bit of sugar and lemon balm.