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20-Minute Simple Panna Cotta & Strawberry Balsamic Option

Patty collects recipes and researches food history. She enjoys sharing her findings with her online readers.

Vanilla panna cotta with accompaniments of flavor

Vanilla panna cotta with accompaniments of flavor

What Is Panna Cotta?

Panna cotta, meaning "cooked cream," is a traditional Italian dessert that has a cargo van full of names, including:

  • Pannacotta (one word)
  • Italian custard
  • Italian egg custard (even though many varieties do not contain any eggs)
  • Italian pudding

The dessert is made with heavy cream, sugar, gelatin, and an individual's choice of toppings. It is often created as a creamy vanilla base, with sauces spooned on top.

Some panna cottas are also made with cinnamon or caramel and topped with other sauces to add a wider palette of flavors. The key ingredient in all of the variations of the dessert is good quality cream. Thus it becomes like a creamy, more sophisticated, and more fully flavorful version of American Jell-O.

Topping options include caramel, chocolate, and fruit sauces; shaved or broken dark chocolate; powdered cinnamon or ginger; and many types of preserves. You might experiment with your own ingredients and invent something new!

Origins in Italy

Panna cotta originated in the Italian region of Piedmont, which includes the city of Torino (Turin)

Panna cotta originated in the Italian region of Piedmont, which includes the city of Torino (Turin)

"The key ingredient in all of the variations of the dessert is good quality cream."

Italian Origins

Panna cotta originated in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, which includes the city of Turin. Turin is famous for the Shroud of Turin as well as for hosting the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. In addition, religious pilgrims traveling from Canterbury to Rome passed through this region, particularly through the Valley of Abbeys.

On the borders of France and Switzerland, the Piedmont region was not a popular tourist destination until after 1970. Since then, it has become a center that now attracts those in search of gourmet dining. About two dozen festivals are held in the region, including the White Truffle Festival in Alba.

Simple Panna Cotta

Yield: 6 servings

Cook time: 20 minutes


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Read More From Delishably

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 envelope Knox, kosher, or any other brand of good, unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • Caramel, fruit, or chocolate syrup; shaved chocolate, broken peanut brittle, raisins, craisins (dried cranberries), fresh fruit slices, nuts, or any topping that you like!


  1. Dissolve gelatin in water.
  2. Pour the whipping cream into a saucepan.
  3. Take 1 vanilla bean, cut it open, and scrape it out into the saucepan. Then add the whole bean.
  4. Add sugar and mix.
  5. Heat the mixture over moderate heat (do not oil) and simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from the heat and remove vanilla bean with tongs and discard.
  7. Stir the mixture consistently while gradually dissolving the gelatin/water into the hot whipping cream.
  8. Pour the mixture into pudding cups or ramekins that have been rinsed out with cold water to chill.
  9. Put cups in the coldest part of the refrigerate until set, or overnight.
  10. When ready to serve, turn the pannacotta upside down onto serving plates and place topping over each one.


Strawberry Balsamic Panna Cotta

Yield: 6 servings


For the panna cotta:

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin, such as Knox, a good store brand, or a kosher variety
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/4 cups yogurt (plain, vanilla, or strawberry)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar

For the strawberry preparation:

  • 1 quart strawberries, stems removed, berries washed and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (this provides a slight bite to the topping)


  1. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a bowl and sprinkle gelatin over top. Allow to stand until soft (15 minutes).
  2. Mix 1 cup cream, yogurt, and vanilla in a larger bowl.
  3. Heat and stir another 1 cup cream and 1/2 cup sugar in small pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and cream begins to just bubble around the edges.
  4. Quickly remove from heat and pour into the gelatin mixture, stirring well to dissolve gelatin.
  5. Pour this hot mixture into the yogurt mixture in the bowl.
  6. Pour 1/2 cup batter each into 6 ramekins, tart shells, or custard cups.
  7. Refrigerate cups uncovered until cold (overnight is good).
  8. Before serving, toss strawberries (sliced), vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a bowl and permit to stand to marinate for 30 minutes.
  9. Spoon strawberries over panna cotta and enjoy.

Kiwi Panna Cotta

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

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