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Experience the simple elegance of Panna Cotta, a classic Italian dessert perfect for one. This recipe combines creamy texture with just the right amount of sweetness, making it a great choice for a personal treat. Easy to make and lovely to serve, Panna Cotta can be enjoyed in its basic form or customized with your preferred toppings for a delightful finish to any meal.

Panna Cotta is wonderfully adaptable. You can enjoy its gentle taste by itself or play around with different toppings. Add fresh berries, honey, cranberry jam, fresh whipped cream, or a vibrant raspberry coulis like the one in our Knickerbocker Glory recipe for an exciting burst of flavor!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  1. Simple Ingredients: This recipe requires just a handful of pantry staples, making it easy to whip up on a whim.
  2. Quick & Easy Preparation: No fancy equipment or complicated steps are needed. It comes together in a matter of minutes.
  3. Perfectly Portioned: This recipe yields the perfect amount for one, so you can enjoy a delicious dessert without overindulging.
  4. Elegant Presentation: Whether in a bowl or unmolded, it looks as delightful as it tastes.
  5. Light & Refreshing: This dessert is the perfect way to end a meal without feeling weighed down.
panna cotta in a dessert dish with a spoon on the side.

What Is Panna Cotta

Panna cotta, a traditional Italian dessert, is made by thickening cream with gelatin. This creates a pudding-like texture, lightly sweetened with sugar and usually infused with vanilla for flavor. Its name, which means “cooked cream” in Italian, is a bit misleading; the mixture of cream, sugar, and other ingredients are only warmed on the stove, not fully cooked. This gentle heating process thickens the panna cotta.

You have the choice to enjoy panna cotta directly from a bowl or to unmold it onto a plate for a more elegant presentation. It’s commonly served with fruit or a fruit sauce for an added burst of flavor.

Ingredient Notes

See recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.

  • Milk and Heavy Cream (Double Cream): For optimal results, use a combination of whole milk and heavy cream. Keep in mind, if you use milk with lower fat content, your panna cotta will have a much softer texture.
  • Gelatin: This is the thickening agent that helps to set the dessert. Choose plain, unflavored gelatin, typically located in the baking supplies aisle of the grocery store.
  • Sugar: Granulated sugar adds sweetness.
  • Vanilla: This is added to enhance the flavor of the panna cotta.

If you have any ingredients leftover from this panna cotta recipe, check out our Leftover Ingredients Recipe Finder.

Recipe Variations

  • Spiced Panna Cotta: Add a pinch of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger to the cream mixture.
  • Coffee Panna Cotta: Stir in a teaspoon or two of strong brewed coffee or espresso to the cream mixture for a delightful coffee-flavored dessert.
  • Citrus Panna Cotta: Grate lemon, orange, or lime zest into the mixture for a refreshing citrus kick.
  • Berries and Cream: Top the set panna cotta with a mix of fresh berries and a dollop of whipped cream.
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How To Make Panna Cotta

  1. Prepare Gelatin and Milk: Start by pouring the milk into a small saucepan. Evenly sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the milk. Leave it to rest for about 5 minutes, or until you notice the gelatin has partially dissolved into the milk.
  2. Warm the Milk: Place the saucepan over low heat. Stir or whisk the milk continuously for about 2 minutes. It’s important to avoid bringing the milk to a boil or even a simmer; the gelatin will fully dissolve as the milk gradually warms up.
  3. Add Sugar and Cream: Next, mix the sugar into the warm milk. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the cream to the saucepan, continuing to stir constantly to ensure everything is well combined.
  4. Final Touches: Once the mixture is smooth, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract for flavor.
  5. Chill: Finally, pour the mixture into a ramekin or a dessert bowl. Place it in the refrigerator to chill until set, and then it’s ready to be served.

Expert Tips

  • Gentle Heat is Key: Warm the cream and sugar over low heat to prevent boiling, ensuring a smooth texture.
  • Adjust Chilling Based on Presentation:
    • If enjoying directly from a dessert bowl, a chill time of 2 hours is sufficient.
    • When unmolding, refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, or even overnight, for optimal results.
  • Unmolding Techniques: For a seamless unmolding, gently run a knife along the edge and invert onto a plate.
  • Explore Flavor Variations:
    • Vanilla extract is a traditional favorite, but explore other options for a unique twist.
    • Try 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract for a subtle, nutty flavor.
    • Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice and/or zest for a zing of citrus.
    • Incorporate shaved chocolate for a rich, indulgent touch.
    • Fresh mint, either infused or as a garnish, can provide a refreshing element.
    • A pinch of cinnamon is great for adding a warm, spicy note to your panna cotta.

Unmolding Your Panna Cotta

While panna cotta can be enjoyed directly in the serving dish, unmolding it creates a more elegant presentation. Here’s how to do it with ease:

  1. Prepare a warm water bath: Fill a medium bowl with warm water, not hot, to about halfway full.
  2. Loosen the edges: Gently run a sharp knife around the rim of the panna cotta, separating it from the sides of the ramekin or mold.
  3. Warm the bottom: Briefly dip the bottom of the ramekin or serving dish into the warm water bath, holding it for about 5 seconds.
  4. Unmold and enjoy: Invert the ramekin onto a serving plate. If the panna cotta doesn’t slide out easily, give the ramekin a gentle shake. Once unmolded, enjoy your delicious panna cotta!

Remember, if you encounter any resistance while unmolding, don’t force it. Simply dip the bottom of the ramekin back into the warm water for a few more seconds and try again.

an unmolded panna cotta on a green plate topped with fruit sauce.

Creative Serving Ideas For Your Panna Cotta

Panna cotta’s versatility extends beyond its flavor variations. You can get creative with how you serve it, making it perfect for any occasion.

Enjoy Straight from the Source: Forget fancy dessertware! Panna cotta is just as delightful enjoyed directly from its setting dish. A ramekin, small jar, coffee cup, or even a wine glass works perfectly.

Unmolding for Elegance: Consider a more elegant presentation by unmolding the panna cotta. To ensure a smooth release, lightly coat the inside of the dish with cooking spray before pouring the mixture. Once set, follow the instructions in the “Unmolding Your Panna Cotta” section above.

Simple or Saucy? The Choice is Yours:

Embrace Simplicity: Panna cotta’s natural sweetness and creamy texture shines on its own. Enjoy it as is for a light and satisfying treat.

Dress it Up with Sauces: Elevate your panna cotta with homemade or store-bought sauces. Explore these suggestions for inspiration:

  • Fried Apples: A warm and comforting topping with a touch of cinnamon.
  • Cranberry Jam: A tart and tangy contrast to the panna cotta’s sweetness.
  • Caramelized Plums: A luxurious and decadent option.
  • Lemon Curd: A tangy and zesty topping for a bright flavor profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why hasn’t my panna cotta set?

If your panna cotta is too liquid, it could be due to incomplete melting of the gelatin or the mixture might have been boiled. Boiling can reduce the thickening ability of gelatin. Another reason could be insufficient setting time in the refrigerator.

How long will the panna cotta last?

Once chilled, panna cotta will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Can I make panna cotta ahead of time?

Absolutely! This dessert is perfect for making in advance and storing in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy.

Can I double this panna cotta recipe?

Yes, you can easily double the recipe. Simply use a larger saucepan and double the quantities of all the ingredients.

Ways To Use Leftover Ingredients

If you have any ingredients leftover from this recipe, check out our Leftover Ingredients Recipe Finder or you might like to consider using them in any of these single serving and small batch recipes:

For this panna cotta recipe I use a 1-quart saucepan. For best results, use a pan of similar size. If you would like additional information on the dishes I use in our “recipes for one”, please visit our FAQ page.

For examples of the dishes we use, please visit our Store page.

If you’ve tried this panna cotta or any recipe on One Dish Kitchen please let me know how you liked it by rating the recipe and telling me about it in the comment section below.

Also, if you take a picture please tag us on Instagram (@onedishkitchen) we’d love to see!


Your Cooking For One Source
Because you’re worth it

Panna Cotta For One

5 from 7 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Chill: 4 hours
Total: 4 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 1 serving
Enjoy a classic Italian Panna Cotta with our easy single serving recipe. Velvety, creamy, & sweet, it's a simple yet luxurious homemade dessert.

Ingredients 
 

  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Prepare Gelatin and Milk: Start by pouring the milk into a small saucepan. Evenly sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the milk. Leave it to rest for about 5 minutes, or until you notice the gelatin has partially dissolved into the milk.
  • Warm the Milk: Place the saucepan over low heat. Stir or whisk the milk continuously for about 2 minutes. It’s important to avoid bringing the milk to a boil or even a simmer; the gelatin will fully dissolve as the milk gradually warms up.
  • Add Sugar and Cream: Next, mix the sugar into the warm milk. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then, add the cream to the saucepan, continuing to stir constantly to ensure everything is well combined.
  • Final Touches: Once the mixture is smooth, remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract for flavor.
  • Chill: Finally, pour the mixture into a ramekin or a dessert bowl. Place it in the refrigerator to chill until firm, which should take at least 2 hours but could be up to 4 hours if unmolding.
    Pro Tip: If you're planning to unmold the panna cotta, lightly grease the ramekin before pouring in the mixture. Alternatively, you can enjoy the panna cotta right out of the dessert bowl. Complete instructions for unmolding are provided below.

Notes

    • Gentle Heat is Key: Warm the cream and sugar over low heat to prevent boiling, ensuring a smooth texture.
    • Adjust Chilling Based on Presentation:
        • If enjoying directly from a dessert bowl, a chill time of 2 hours is sufficient.
        • When unmolding, refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, or even overnight, for optimal results.
    • Unmolding Techniques: For a seamless unmolding, gently run a knife along the edge and invert onto a plate.
    • Explore Flavor Variations:
        • Vanilla extract is a traditional favorite, but explore other options for a unique twist.
        • Try 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract for a subtle, nutty flavor.
        • Add 1/8 teaspoon of lemon juice and/or zest for a zing of citrus.
        • Incorporate shaved chocolate for a rich, indulgent touch.
        • Fresh mint, either infused or as a garnish, can provide a refreshing element.
        • A pinch of cinnamon is great for adding a warm, spicy note to your panna cotta.
 
Unmolding Your Panna Cotta
While panna cotta can be enjoyed directly in the serving dish, unmolding it creates a more elegant presentation. Here’s how to do it with ease:
    1. Prepare a warm water bath: Fill a medium bowl with warm water, not hot, to about halfway full.
    1. Loosen the edges: Gently run a sharp knife around the rim of the panna cotta, separating it from the sides of the ramekin or mold.
    1. Warm the bottom: Briefly dip the bottom of the ramekin or serving dish into the warm water bath, holding it for about 5 seconds.
    1. Unmold and enjoy: Invert the ramekin onto a serving plate. If the panna cotta doesn’t slide out easily, give the ramekin a gentle shake. Once unmolded, enjoy your delicious panna cotta!
Remember, if you encounter any resistance while unmolding, don’t force it. Simply dip the bottom of the ramekin back into the warm water for a few more seconds and try again.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 417kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 35g, Saturated Fat: 22g, Cholesterol: 129mg, Sodium: 61mg, Potassium: 148mg, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 1422IU, Calcium: 127mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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