The Perfect Vanilla Panna Cotta

August 12, 2010

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Call me cynical, but if I were to see ‘perfect’ this and ‘perfect’ that, chances are, I’m just gonna pfft at it. But then again, if it was a claim made by somebody who knows his shit, like say David Lebovitz, then it’d probably be wise of me to sit up and take notice. Especially when he had the tasty photographic evidence to back it up.

For instance… perfect panna cotta?

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Vanilla Panna Cotta served with macerated berries

Simple fact is, I’ve never made panna cotta before but I’ve certainly enjoyed a few in my lifetime. Most notably, the naughty mammary-like ‘booby cottas’ of Jonah’s George Francisco. I didn’t know where to start and who to trust but a simple ‘perfect’ from Mr Lebovitz and I was reeled in.

This recipe is so simple and quick to make that it now takes a place in my lazy and fabulous recipe repetoire. It resulted in a panna cotta that’s silky and smooth, creamy without being cloying and just melted in your mouth. A wise man once said that, “a panna cotta should wobble like a Rubenesque woman wearing 5 inch heels”. And wobble and jiggle it did, that seductive temptress.

IMG_9974 edited

Ugh! Unmoulding massacre and naughty sinking vanilla seeds. Meh, still delicious with a red wine poached pear!

Because this panna cotta is just cream and vanilla, using the best quality ingredients is a must. For mine, I’m talking full bodied, farm-friendly, happy-cow whole cream with fragrant vanilla beans or top notch vanilla extract. What you’ll get is a pure, unadulterated panna cotta that’s heaven to eat on its own. But if you prefer a little extra on the side, it’s stunning with fruit.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

I had enough to feed an army so I served some with macerated berries and others with pears poached in spiced red wine. There was suppose to be a red wine syrup to garnish with but… well, lets just say, never play Angry Birds on your Ipod when you are suppose to be keeping an eye on stuff. Oops. And also, lets not speak of my wayward vanilla beans who decided not to play nice and sunk to the bottom of my ramekins. Still a tasty mishap no? If you’re short on time or you just, well, suck at delicately unmoulding a panna cotta out of a ramekin, serve it in glasses topped with a tumble of berries. Perrr…fect.



Berry syrupy goodness – the longer the berries macerate, the more liquid will seep out 

Perfect Panna Cotta

Recipe from David Lebovitz (who adapted from Secrets From My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts)

Recipe revisited here

1 L pouring cream (35-36% fat content)

100g sugar
2 tsps of vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
90ml cold water


Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. You’re only warming it up to dissolve the sugar, don’t overheat it.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

Pour the warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatine and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved.

Allow mixture to cool down before dividing out into your ramekins. Chill for a few hours (I chilled mine overnight).

Run a small thin palette knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish as desired. Alternatively you could make the panna cottas in glasses and not worry about unmoulding.

To make Panna Cotta with sheet gelatine: Soften 25g of gelatine leaves in a litre of cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. Wring the sheets out and stir them into the warm Panna Cotta mixture in step # 4, until dissolved.

To prevent your panna cottas from separating:

* Don’t overheat the cream. Just warm it enough to dissolve the sugar and gelatine (which can dissolve at body temperature).

* Either way, allow the cream mixture to cool down sufficiently before pouring into your ramekins or glasses and chilling it.

To Macerate Berries

Toss berries in caster sugar and allow to chill in the fridge for about 30mins to an hour. What this does is sweeten the flavour of the berries and draws the liquid out (which I love having with the panna cotta). Alternatively you could reduce this liquid in a small pan over medium heat until it’s syrupy.

Print this recipe!

Vanilla Panna Cotta


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat March 26, 2014 at 11:59

Hi how long ahead of time can the Panna Cotta be made?


Citrus and Candy April 27, 2014 at 01:04

The panna cottas should be fine to store in the fridge for a bit. A few days maybe?


Bunny October 2, 2013 at 00:11

I made this recipe yesterday and was kind of dissappointed. It’s too thick and dense, panna cotta is supposed to be light and creamy, not thick and overly rich. 1/2 the cream should have been substituted forl milk.


filiz September 21, 2013 at 08:48

Hi I just made dis recipe last night and the next morning I went to check it it didnt wobble very much and the texture wasnt quiet as smooth. It tasted alot like cream and not so much like a dessert made from cream. Can you please tell me where I went wrong????


Citrus and Candy September 21, 2013 at 23:27

Hi, with such vague information it’s a little hard on my end to see what went wrong. Did it set too firm or did it not set enough? If it wasn’t as smooth then you might not have dissolved the gelatine properly or you may have heated the cream too much. Not sure what you mean by when you say it tasted like cream and not “like a dessert made from cream”? Did you use enough vanilla extract or infuse the vanilla bean long enough? Did you use good cream?


paper shooting targets May 12, 2013 at 16:15

At this time it sounds like BlogEngine is the top blogging platform out there right now.

(from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?


Gianna December 4, 2011 at 09:07

Ohhh perfect! I can’t wait to whip this up today!


Nelly April 21, 2011 at 12:49

Looks GOOD!! I wanna make this for several of my friends who are coming over on saturday, with the amount in the recipe, how many cups does that make ? Thanks!


Melissa November 1, 2010 at 21:53

thanks so much for the perfect-ish panna cotta recipe. definately going to try on that with the glasses! they looked awesome!


Pink Crocodile August 17, 2010 at 06:33

Oh this looks amazing! What kind of camera do you use? You photos are stunning! Thanks for sharing the recipe.


amy August 16, 2010 at 15:57

would you believe me if i told you i have never eaten panna cotta before? panna cotta does not seem to attract me much when placed next to chocolate cakes, fruit tarts, apple pies and what nots but i will give it a try soon and if i like it, this recipe would be the first one i will try:)


SimonFoodFavourites August 16, 2010 at 13:22

oh wow. it does look pretty perfect to me with all than vanilla bean. yum! :-)


Brilynn August 15, 2010 at 21:46

I'm usually weary of anything labeled as “the perfect…” as well, but those panna cotta look pretty awesome. You can't go wrong with real vanilla beans though.


Lisa August 15, 2010 at 09:20

Karen!! Your photos are absolutely stunning! I love how panna cottas are so easy to make and yet look so beautiful and elegant. I'll have to give this recipe a try next time!


Laetita August 15, 2010 at 07:59

I love panna cotta, because there're delicious (you're right, a good quality for the crea is crucial!) and because ther're so easy to cook! Like a -almost- instant dessert :-) Good combinaison with fruit. And your photos are terrific!!


Ladybird August 15, 2010 at 06:36

It looks sooo perfect, lovely pics :) Unfortunately I don't eat panna cotta because of the gelatine.. I wonder if there's a vegetarian substitute (?)


guest August 26, 2010 at 14:10

You can easily replace the gelatine with agar-agar.


Mei Sze August 14, 2010 at 12:04

wobbly booby cottas it is…hehehe..yes, read that quote from that certain wise man too…. :) Looks absolutely stunning! :) And I love the look of that pear..its blushing a deep red just standing next to booby cotta…


Kate August 14, 2010 at 09:52

Karen youre my hero! Reading your blog is a welcome distraction from my law readings xox


@bellyrumbles August 14, 2010 at 02:29

oh wow those gorgeous syrupy strawberries on top of the panna cotta. Visually stunning!


Laura August 13, 2010 at 11:02

i love how the strawberry juice sits perfectly on top of the panna cotta


mlle délicieuse August 12, 2010 at 13:42

Panna cotta. Perrr-fect!


Conor @ HoldtheBeef August 12, 2010 at 12:28

I am glad I have no idea what angry birds is. I have enough failure inducing distractions in my house.

The only thing unperfect about these is that we can't witness them wobbling :)


OohLookBel August 12, 2010 at 03:52

That's not near-perfect, it's completely perfect!


penny aka jeroxie August 12, 2010 at 02:38

It does look perfect to me!


Sarah - For the Love of Food August 12, 2010 at 02:07

This looks fab – I love panna cotta but I've found it's a bit tricky to get the gelatine content right and yes un-molding can be fun! These really look beautiful – your photography is just lovely.


Tita August 12, 2010 at 02:02

Beautiful and delicious!!!

Tita , from Chile


@IronChefShellie August 12, 2010 at 00:38

Oh it looks so perfect though!
I'll take your advice regarding angry birds. I always play it just before bed time, and find myself awake for hours!


Fiona August 11, 2010 at 21:34

That would make my brother in law very happy.


Steph August 11, 2010 at 21:14

Karen these photos are so, so perfect. LOVE! I suck at unmoulding pannacottas so I am in total agreement with keeping it pretty in the glass ;)


chocolatesuze August 11, 2010 at 19:23

sometimes i play angry birds so much i hear those little pigs in my dreams


citrusandcandy August 12, 2010 at 10:17

LOL or the birds! I walk around making Angry Bird noises. “weeeeeee!!!!!”


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