Classic Panna Cotta Recipe

Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert: creamy, rich, and almost sinfully simple to make. Translating to "cooked cream," classic panna cotta thickens rich, vanilla-scented cream with gelatin for a silky-smooth dessert that's particularly perfect on warm days.

"If you want a different flavor other than vanilla, you can try other extracts instead," explains recipe developer Mark Beahm of The Sunday Baker. "Just be sure to adjust the amount you use based on the strength of the extract. For example, almond and mint extracts tend to be stronger than vanilla extract. You could also try steeping flavorings while heating the cream and milk, like citrus peel, tea, or coffee. Just strain them out after they've steeped."

This panna cotta doesn't require too much hands-on time, but it will take at least four hours to set: It's the perfect dessert to make in the morning so that you can simply pull it out of the fridge come dinnertime.

"After about 12 hours of chilling, they will reach their maximum firmness," adds Beahm. "So you can make them the day before as well."

Gather the ingredients for this classic panna cotta

To make this classic panna cotta, very few ingredients are required. You'll need heavy cream, of course, as well as whole milk, vanilla, sugar, and gelatin — look for granulated gelatin in seven-gram envelopes, or about 2 1/4 teaspoons.

Since there are so few ingredients in this dessert, you'll want to go for the best quality you can find. Real vanilla extract is essential to giving this panna cotta the flavor it needs.

You'll also need ramekins or glasses for serving these individual panna cottas — the recipe yields eight portions, so keep that in mind when choosing the size you want to serve in. Clear glass affords a particularly beautiful presentation, as each guest will be able to see the pure, creamy color of the dessert before digging in.

Bloom the gelatin for this classic panna cotta

To make this classic panna cotta, begin by blooming the gelatin in 1/4 cup of the milk and the delicate vanilla. This step simply requires stirring the three ingredients together so that the gelatin can begin to absorb the liquid.

"Blooming the gelatin ensures that it dissolves evenly so the panna cotta is smooth," explains Beahm. "Just don't let it sit for too long (no more than ten to 15 minutes), as it will make the gelatin set too hard."

Heat the cream for this classic panna cotta

While the gelatin blooms, heat the cream, sugar, and remaining milk in a heavy saucepan by just barely simmering. It's important not to overheat it: Not only does milk have a tendency to bubble up and scald, risking making a big mess, but beginning with liquid that's too hot can actually prevent the panna cotta from setting properly, explains Beahm.

"You just want to heat the cream mixture until it's steaming hot or just comes to a simmer," explains Beahm. "As soon as you start to notice it start to bubble on the edges, it's hot enough."

Whisk the gelatin into the cream for this classic panna cotta

When the gelatin has bloomed and the cream is hot, it's time to combine the two. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the gelatin until smooth.

Once combined, pour the mixture into a four-cup measuring cup to cool slightly — this will help make transferring the mixture into the individual serving dishes easier. Be sure to stir the mixture from time to time with a whisk to keep it from separating as it cools.

"It can take about an hour to cool to lukewarm," says Beahm. "Find some space in the refrigerator, and remember to stir it every so often while it's cooling. Then pour it into the molds. You could also use an ice bath to chill it faster."

Portion the classic panna cotta

When the classic panna cotta mixture is cool, carefully divide the panna cotta among eight small ramekins or serving glasses. Cover each with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until set, at least four hours.

"While they set, a thin skin may form on the surface of the panna cotta," notes Beahm, who recommends ensuring the plastic is in contact with the surface of the panna cotta if you want to avoid this textural anomaly.

When serving, let your creativity be your guide. "Because panna cotta is so creamy and subtly flavored, it's easy to pair with almost anything," explains Beahm. "I love it with fresh or macerated berries or fruit, but you could serve it with caramel sauce or chocolate sauce."

Classic Panna Cotta Recipe
5 from 32 ratings
Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert: creamy, rich, and almost sinfully simple to make. And now, you can easily make it at home.
Prep Time
Cook Time
classic panna cotta served
Total time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • 1 7-gram packet granulated gelatin (2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  1. Combine the gelatin, ¼ cup of the milk, and the vanilla extract in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until smooth. Let the gelatin bloom about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream, sugar, and the remaining 1 ¼ cups of milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it barely comes to a simmer.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the gelatin.
  4. Pour the mixture into a 4-cup measuring cup and cool to lukewarm in the fridge, whisking every once in a while to prevent the mixture from separating.
  5. Once cool, divide the panna cotta base among 8 ramekins or small glasses. Cover each with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.
Calories per Serving 313
Total Fat 23.5 g
Saturated Fat 14.6 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 86.1 mg
Total Carbohydrates 22.8 g
Dietary Fiber 0.0 g
Total Sugars 22.9 g
Sodium 43.9 mg
Protein 3.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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