Italy’s answer to pudding, panna cotta means cooked cream.

Unlike a true custard that is thickened with eggs, panna cotta gets its “set” from gelatin.

At its simplest, it is sweetened cream stabilized with gelatin, but you can jazz it up with zests or spices.

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Below is a very basic panna cotta recipe that will yield about 10 one-half cup servings.

You may also enjoy my other panna cotta recipes.

Lemon corn panna cotta is very summery and light and is lovely served with fresh berry sauce.

Coffee panna cotta is creamy and kinda fancy (don’t you think coffee desserts are fancy?)

Cream cheese panna cotta has a lovely tang and body from the cream cheese. I serve this one in a tart shell so you can slice it into wedges, but feel free to serve them up as individual panna cottas as well.

panna cotta

Panna Cotta

Jennifer Field
This method seems a little fussy, but it will yield a very creamy, rather than slick, panna cotta. The mixture will also be thick enough that any vanilla bean specks will be suspended and won't sink to the bottom. When served, you can always tell if the panna cotta mixture was too warm or too thin when molded because there will be tons of little black specks on the top, which used to be the bottom. Not pretty. This won't hurt the flavor, but if you're going to make a simple dessert, and panna cotta is, than you might as well make it as perfect as possible.
4.17 from 6 votes
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Servings 12 4 oz servings
Calories 245 kcal


  • 4-5 teaspoons powdered gelatin (less for a softer set, more for a firmer set)
  • 3 cups whole milk , divided
  • pinch of salt , to taste
  • 2 ½ cups heavy cream (you can substitute some plain tangy yogurt, buttermilk, creme fraiche or sour cream for some of the cream--try subbing half the amount)
  • ½ cup sugar , more or less to taste
  • 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • Bloom the gelatin in about 1/2 cup of milk. When softened (about 10-15 minutes), add to another cup of milk, half of the sugar and the salt (and anything you're steeping in the milk) to a saucepan.
  • Heat until very hot to dissolve sugar and gelatin, but do not bring to a boil. (Boiling gelatin reduces its thickening power).
  • Strain into the other 1 1/2 cups of cold milk. If you are substituting for a portion of the cream, add the substitution here and whisk in very well.
  • In a stainless steel bowl, whip heavy cream and the other half of the sugar until thickened and whisk leaves tracks in the cream. You don't even have to get it to soft peaks, but do make sure it has thickened some.
  • Whisk everything together thoroughly and strain again. At this point your mixture should be pretty thick, which is what we're going for. If your mixture still seems a little thin to you, whisk it over an ice bath until it thickens enough to suspend the vanilla specks.
  • What to mold it in? Well, you can serve them in ramekins, but it's a little nicer to unmold them. The easiest thing to use, if you have them, are flexible silicone muffin pans.
  • Pour the panna cotta in, freeze them, pop them out onto your serving plate, and let them come up to serving temperature. This will take about 30 minutes or so. The cheapest thing to do is to mold them in mini solo cups, freeze them, cut and peel the cups away when frozen, then plate and let come up to temperature. The downside of this method is that your lovely panna cottas will say Solo in bas relief on the tops! Fix this by serving fresh or stewed, sweetened berries on top.
  • If you prefer not to freeze your panna cottas, you can serve them in ramekins. It is difficult to unmold a jiggly, creamy dessert.

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Calories: 245kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 4gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 47mgSugar: 11g
Keyword dessert, panna cotta
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  1. Why is whipping the cream needed? Won’t it leave lots of little bubbles in the panna cotta and create separation since the foaminess is lighter than the liquid milk?

    1. It’s a great question, Lyn. It’s not so much whipping cream to stiff peaks as it is whipping it just a bit until it thickens. Combined with the rest of the panna cotta mix that should be cooling down in an ice bath, you’ll end up with a creamier rather than slicker texture, if that makes sense. The mixture won’t separate as long as you slowly whisk the two together until it thickens up to a consistency like just-off-the-stove pudding. At that point it won’t separate because a)it’ll be too thick, and b)it will set quickly in the fridge since it will already be well on its way from its time in the ice bath.

      Try it this way one time and see if you don’t prefer the texture. I also like that the vanilla beans stay suspended throughout the panna cotta rather than all settling to the bottom (which then of course becomes the top) because the mixture was too thin/warm when you put it in the fridge.

  2. how many 4oz ramekins does this recipe fill…..obviously not to the top! Also, does the gelatin separate at all when this dessert thaws? so many say not to freeze but I’m making for a crowd and need to do ahead.

    1. Hey, Ellie! You’ll get 11-12 4oz servings out of this recipe. They freeze beautifully. Once gelatin is bloomed and then melted, it holds onto liquid and won’t separate out. Panna cotta is a great make-ahead-and-freeze dessert. I promise! 🙂

    1. Hi, Ana. I’ve never tried to test to see how long before the quality suffers, but I would say no more than 3 weeks or so as long as they are well wrapped. Hope that helps.

4.17 from 6 votes (6 ratings without comment)

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