A sumptuously smooth, creamy Italian Vanilla Panna Cotta dessert, rich in vanilla and drizzled with a bright and fruity Berry Coulis.
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Vanilla Panna Cotta Dessert – It’s naturally Gluten Free!
If you are looking for a perfect ending to a good meal, a sumptuously creamy Panna Cotta dessert may be just the thing! Topped with a tart berry coulis, it is a joy to the eyes as well as the palate. And no matter how full you think you are, it will still be devoured.
Being Coeliac, Panna Cotta is always a treat to find on the sweet menu when eating out. Not only is it naturally gluten free, but it always makes a delightful change to the usual and very predictable ‘options’ of ice cream or brownies. Not that there is anything wrong with ice cream or brownies. But for the gluten-avoiders amongst us, there are days when even the squidgiest of brownies becomes tedious.
Panna Cotta is also incredibly easy to make. It requires no cooking and can be prepared well ahead of time, making it perfect for dinner parties and celebrations. The vanilla Panna Cotta recipe featured here is one of my favourites, although there are also alternative versions on Gluten Free Alchemist. Simple and velvetty, this dessert is guaranteed to charm and impress. (Just don’t tell the guests how easy it is to make…).
What is Panna Cotta Dessert?
Although difficult to trace a complete history, Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert, thought to originate from Piedmont in the North of Italy. As with all good recipes though, this dessert has some dubious-sounding beginnings… Early recipes apparently used collagen from fish bones to set the cream!
A traditional Italian Panna Cotta dessert today will always be made with cream, sugar and gelatine. Translated into English as ‘cooked cream’, it is fundamentally sweetened, set custard, which is as decadent as it is simple.
In recent years, there has been an increase of recipes away from tradition however, as chefs have sought to lighten and veganise it. Indeed, Panna Cotta is an incredibly versatile dish. The option to use plant-based milks and substitute animal gelatine with vegetarian alternatives is relatively straight forward.
How to Make Panna Cotta – The Importance of Ratios
The true art of traditional Panna Cotta perfection lies in its ‘wobble’. It should wobble delicately, but not be over ‘jellified’ as to be rubbery and sticky. It should nonetheless remain set, be sumptuously creamy and must melt in the mouth as if dissolving silk. The magic ratio apparently lies at 1.6% gelatine to liquid. Anything more and you risk something akin to children’s party food.
The quantity of cream is also important. Although acceptable to replace some of the cream with milk, Panna Cotta is meant to be an indulgent pudding. The higher the cream content the better. This particular Vanilla Panna Cotta recipe is made with a cream ratio of 2:1, maintaining the expected luxuriance without being over-rich.
Beyond this, the oppulently humble Panna Cotta dessert is a blank canvas to take wherever you choose. Vanilla Panna Cotta may be the most traditional variant, but the basic Panna Cotta recipe lends itself to anything from fruit infusions, chocolate and coffee to herbs and flowers. There are even Panna Cotta recipes which fall into the savoury category. Check out this gorgeous-looking Black Pepper and Parmesan Panna Cotta that I found on Food 52.
How to Serve Panna Cotta
Whilst Panna Cotta is child’s play to make, serving it can be a trickier affair. To achieve the towered glory of the moulded dessert, requires patience and calm. As if knowing its fate, this sublime treat clings to its bunker like a limpet in a tsunami. Unsticking it will likely result in frustrated cries, stamped feet and more than a little banging of the upside-down mould on fragile plates. Make and serve in glasses with a spoon if you are prone to fits of temper or loss of control.
There is an uncomplicated trick however, to ensure your Panna Cotta releases and lets go with a satisfying plop. Whole and intact. Simply give the base of the mould a quick dip in boiling water, flip it over and watch smugly as it wobbles flirtingly on the plate.
Whilst Panna Cotta is delicious ‘straight’, it is best served with a contrasting sauce or fruit to offset the sweetness and singular texture. As a matter of preference, I often pair mine with fruit which has a tartness to offset the sweet. For a vanilla Panna Cotta, berries are a perfect partner. Their vibrant colour contrasts with the simplicity of the smooth pale custard and instantly excites the taste buds.
If you prefer Panna Cotta dessert of the chocolate variety, we can also offer you a delicious White Chocolate Panna Cotta served with Honey Roasted Figs and Walnuts. Or alternatively, a lightly floral White Chocolate, Lavender and Blackberry Panna Cotta.
Whichever you choose, savour and enjoy each and every mouthful. This is one pudding that is more than worth the calories. But alas. Although one portion should be enough, there is always disappointment when it ends… Can I have another please?
If you are looking for other recipes which are naturally gluten free or flourless, you might like these posts :
- 60 Gluten Free Pudding Recipes & Flourless Desserts – An Ultimate Dinner Party Guide
- Layered Berry Pavlova
- Blackberry-Coconut Cheesecake
- Zesty Lemon Meringue Roulade
- Banoffee Cheesecake with Salted Caramel
- Vegan Rich Chocolate Ice Cream (no churn)
- Flourless Chocolate Mini Rolls
- Christmas Mincemeat Ice Cream (no churn)
- Rich Dark Chocolate Mousse
For more gluten free pudding inspiration, why not explore our dedicated Gluten Free Desserts and Trifles index? Or if you are looking for anything else, we have an amazing Gluten Free Recipe Index which offers more than 400 recipes.
Vanilla Panna Cotta Dessert (with Berry Couilis)
- 5-6 silicone moulds/glasses (for individual servings)
- Kitchen scales
- flat-bottomed bowl
- kitchen tongs/fork
- jug (measuring optional)
- small and large saucepans (one of each)
- silicone/wooden spoon
- 10 g gelatine leaves
- 200 g whole (full fat) milk
- 400 g double (heavy) cream
- 120 g caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod (slit)
- 300 g fresh or frozen raspberries/strawberries or other berries
- 2 to 3 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tsp cold water
- 6 strawberries – to decorate (or handful of raspberries)
Vanilla Panna Cotta
- Prepare 5 or 6 (dependent on size) silicone moulds/individual-size non-stick pudding bowls (without removable bases), by placing in the freezer/fridge to chill.
- Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water using a flat-bottomed bowl for about 5 minutes (as per packet instructions) ensuring each leaf has enough room for the water to circulate around it.
- Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat on a medium heat until the milk is just below simmering point (do not allow to boil) and then remove the pan from the heat.
- Drain the gelatine (I lift each piece out of the water using kitchen tongs/fork) and add to the hot milk. Stir to dissolve and combine completely.
- Pour the cream into a larger saucepan and add the sugar and vanilla.
- Bring to the boil over a low to medium heat, stirring constantly. The sugar should dissolve. Then immediately remove from the heat (do not allow to continue to boil). If using a vanilla pod, remove from the mix at this stage.
- Stir the milk-gelatine mixture into the cream until fully combined.
- Remove the moulds from the freezer and carefully pour the Panna Cotta mixture into them equally.
- Allow to cool as quickly as possible (you can speed the cooling process by placing the moulds in a container with ice around the base of the moulds) before chilling in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours to completely set.
- When set, turn the Panna Cotta portions out onto serving plates (dip base of the mould very briefly into a bowl of boiling water to loosen) and serve with fresh strawberries/raspberries and berry coulis.
- Put the raspberries/strawberries/other berries, sugar and water into a small saucepan and set over a low to medium heat, crushing the berries against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden/silicone spoon to release the juices. Slowly bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.
- Continue to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until the berries are soft and disintegrated. (time will vary dependent on the natural softness of fruit used) Take off the heat.
- Pour and push the liquid through a sieve into a jug/bowl (the juice and pulp can then be stirred through – this is your coulis). Discard the pips and fibre. Allow the coulis to cool completely.
- Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
Vanilla Panna Cotta Dessert Recipe Shared With :
- Cook Blog Share with Recipes Made Easy
- Melt in your Mouth Monday Recipe Blog Hop with Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms
- Fiesta Friday #305 with Angie and Spades Spatulas & Spoons
- What’s For Dinner? with The Lazy Gastronome
- Creative Muster #361 with Fluster Buster and Adoring Creations
- Full Plate Thursday #461 with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
Recipe originally published on 25.08.2013 and updated on 5.12.2019