Achieve vanilla panna cotta perfection! Smooth, creamy & speckled with vanilla seeds this classic Italian dessert pairs perfectly with some sweet & syrupy roasted strawberries.

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vanilla bean panna cotta roasted strawberries

What Is A Panna Cotta?

Translated from Italian, panna cotta means “cooked cream”.

A panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert consisting of sweetened cream that has been set with gelatine. Popular flavourings include vanilla, coffee, fruit & chocolate.

Traditionally panna cottas were made with just cream but in recent years, it has become increasingly popular to use a combination of milk & cream for a lighter dessert. A good panna cotta will be smooth & creamy and should be just set enough to hold it’s shape with a slight wobble.

Ingredients For Vanilla Panna Cotta

Double/Heavy Cream

The main ingredient. Using a cream with a high fat percentage makes a smooth & creamy panna cotta that melts in your mouth.

Milk

Replacing part of the cream with milk will give us a lighter, softer dessert.

Sugar

A panna cotta should have a delicate flavour, which is why we’re only using a small amount of sugar in this recipe. If you’d prefer a more caramelised flavour, replace the caster sugar with light brown.

Vanilla

A small amount of high quality vanilla goes a long way! For the best possible flavour, I’d recommend using a decent vanilla bean. You only need to use half of one. A good quality vanilla paste would work as well.

Gelatine

We don’t want our panna cottas to set up too firmly so we’re only using 3 sheets to 600ml of liquid. Make sure to soak them for a good 5 minutes before squeezing as much water out of them as possible.

When soaking, if you add the sheets to water one at a time, they will soak better.

panna cotta mix

How To Make Vanilla Panna Cotta – Step By Step

Soak The Gelatine

First up, we need to soak the gelatine. To do this, fill a container with cold water then add in the gelatine sheets, one at a time. Making sure that they are completely submerged.

Leave the gelatine sheets to soak until soft. This will take at least 5 minutes.

Warm Cream & Vanilla

Whilst the gelatine is soaking, place the double cream, milk, sugar & vanilla (pod & seeds) into a saucepan then warm over a low heat. It’s important not to boil the liquid as it will affect how the gelatine sets.

Add Gelatine

Once the cream mix is warm, remove it from the heat. Squeeze as much water a possible from the soaked gelatine then stir through the cream. Transfer the panna cotta mix into a metal bowl.

Stir Until Cool

This next step is how we stop the vanilla seeds from sinking to the bottom of each mould.

To do this, fill a large bowl with ice then place the bowl of panna cotta mix inside, to create an ice bath. We then leave the cream to cool in the ice, stirring regularly until it is cool & starting to thicken.

Refrigerate

Once the mix is cool, transfer it into 4, 150ml pudding moulds & refrigerate until completely set. This will take at least 4 hours.

Unmould & Serve

Once set, it’s time to serve. To turn out the panna cottas, we need to briefly dunk each mould into a bowl of hot water, making sure not to fully submerge. Loosen the panna cotta’s top edge from the mould with your fingers then turn out onto a plate. Repeat with the other moulds.

If the panna cotta won’t come out of the mould the first time, dip it back into the hot water.

To serve our panna cottas, we add a spoonful of roasted strawberries to the side along with plenty of the syrup.

How To Stop The Vanilla Seeds From Sinking

A good vanilla panna cotta should have vanilla seeds dispersed throughout the cream. Not all on the top.

This is easy to achieve. Simply cool the cream & gelatine mix in an ice bath, making sure to stir regularly. Once it has cooled completely & is starting to thicken, the vanilla seeds will be held in suspension & the mix can be poured into moulds. This step can take a good 10-15 minutes but the results are worth it.

bain marie
Using metal bowls for the ice bath works best!

Removing A Panna Cotta From It’s Mould

The easiest & most effective way to turn out a panna cotta is to dunk the mould into a bowl of hot water then take it out straight away (make sure not to fully submerge the mould, we don’t want a watery panna cotta!). Use your fingers to release the panna cotta’s top edge from the mould then turn it out onto a plate.

If this doesn’t work the first time, simply dunk the mould back into the hot water.

panna cotta strawberries

Variations

This recipe makes a fantastic base for adding different flavourings. Here’s some examples.

  • Warm the cream with some roasted nuts, chill overnight to infuse then make as above
  • Add in an espresso or some coffee extract for a coffee panna cotta
  • Replace the caster sugar with light brown for a caramelised flavour
  • Add a splash of rum for a boozy panna cotta

The possibilities are endless! If you’ve made a variation of this recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

How To Roast Strawberries

Sweet, intense & syrupy. These roasted strawberries are the perfect accompaniment to our vanilla panna cotta. They’re also very easy to make.

Simply, wash & hull some fresh strawberries then cut in half. Mix these with sugar, vanilla & a pinch of salt then roast in the oven until soft & syrupy, stirring halfway through. Leave to cool completely then serve.

These strawberries only take 20 minutes to roast & can be made 2-3 days in advance!

roasted strawberries

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use just cream & no milk?

This panna cotta recipe will work with just cream! Keep in mind that the texture will be firmer & not as light.

Do I have to use vanilla beans?

You don’t have to but I’d definitely recommend it. You only need to use half a pod but a good quality vanilla paste will work as well.

Can gelatine powder be used instead?

Replacing gelatine sheets with powder isn’t a direct swap so I would recommend sticking with sheets.

How long will these take to set?

These panna cottas will take at least 4 hours to set in the fridge.

Can this recipe be made ahead of time?

Absolutely! Both the panna cottas & strawberries can be made 2-3 days in advance.

Equipment Used

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More Dessert Recipes

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta & Roasted Strawberries

A smooth & creamy vanilla panna cotta served with intense roasted strawberries.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Setting Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 40 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 People
Author: Ben Racey

Equipment

  • 4 150ml Pudding Moulds
  • Medium Saucepan
  • 2 Metal Mixing Bowls
  • Baking Tray

Ingredients

Panna Cotta

  • 400 ml Double Cream
  • 200 ml Whole Milk
  • 70 g Caster Sugar
  • 1/2 A Vanilla Pod
  • 3 Sheets Of Gelatine

Roasted Strawberries

  • 200 g Strawberries (1 Punnet)
  • 80 g Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Paste
  • A Pinch Of Sea Salt

Instructions

Panna Cottas

  • For the panna cottas, first place the gelatine into a container of cold water & leave to soak.
    *Adding the sheets of gelatine into the water one at a time helps them soak better.
  • Next, place the cream, milk & sugar into a saucepan. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod & add both the seeds & pod to the milk & cream.
  • Place the pan over a low heat & allow to warm gently, stirring occasionally. Once steaming (don’t let it boil!) remove the pan from the heat.
  • Squeeze as much water as you can from the soaked gelatine then add to the cream & stir until dissolved. Pass through a sieve into a bowl (metal is best).
  • Fill a larger, separate bowl up with ice & water then place the bowl containing the cream into the bowl of water.
  • Stir the panna cotta mix regularly until it has cooled down & has started to thicken. This will take around 20 minutes.
    *Allowing the panna cotta to cool like this holds the vanilla seeds in suspension, preventing them from sinking.
  • Transfer the panna cotta mix to a jug then pour into the moulds. Place in the fridge & leave to set. This will take a minimum of 4 hours.

Roasted Strawberries

  • Preheat an oven to 200°c/180°c fan (390°f/355°f).
  • Give the strawberries a good wash under cold water, trim the tops & slice in half. Place into a mixing bowl along with the sugar, vanilla & salt.
  • Give everything a mix then transfer to an oven proof dish & roast until the strawberries are soft & syrupy, 15-20 minutes. Give them a stir halfway through.
  • Once cooked, leave the strawberries to cool then set aside in the fridge until needed.

To Serve

  • Fill a medium sized bowl up with hot water.
  • Dunk a mould into the hot water then take it straight out.
    *Don’t fully submerge the pudding mould, we don’t want to get the panna cotta wet.
  • Gently loosen the panna cotta’s top edge using your fingers then carefully turn out onto a plate/into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining panna cottas.
    *If the panna cotta won’t come out, dunk the mould into the water a second time.
  • Spoon over a generous amount of the roasted strawberries & serve.

Notes

Kept in the fridge, the panna cottas & strawberries will keep for 2-3 days.
You can use this panna cotta recipe as a base for different flavourings. Adding some spices or citrus would be a good shout.
I’d recommend using a vanilla pod to flavour the cream. You only need half of one but you could also use a teaspoon of vanilla paste instead. I get my vanilla paste & pods from The Vanilla Guys.
Don’t let the milk & cream boil as this will affect how the gelatine sets. It just needs to be steaming.
Once the panna cotta mix has been made, it needs to be stirred regularly until cold before being poured into the moulds. This is how to stop the vanilla seeds from sinking.
This recipe makes 4 panna cottas using 150ml pudding moulds. You can use different size moulds to make more or less portions. Keep in mind that the setting time might vary.

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