Panna Cotta—which means “cooked cream” in Italian—is the most luscious, dreamy dessert, and you won’t believe how easy it is to make!
We had the pleasure of dining at charmingly quaint Via Veneto in Santa Monica last weekend (favorite new LA restaurant!), with our dear friend, Neil, who was visiting from New York.
Left to Right: Neil Gillis, Orna Purkin, Sam Purkin
I can resist most restaurant desserts… but they had me at Nutella!
Their Panna Cotta with Nutella Sauce was one of the most exquisite things ever to pass my lips. Delightfully smooooth and silky. (How could a milky pudding topped with chocolate hazelnut sauce be bad?)
Sorry, didn’t even pause to take a pic before indulging!
I politely stopped after what seemed like my third of the dessert, but when I realized that no one else was going in, I quietly scooped up the rest. I guess I wasn’t as discreet as I thought, because quick-witted friend Neil said, are you going to scarf that one too? (Referring to the Berry Panna Cotta, which the extremely authentic Italian waiter—whom we thought at first was was putting on an accent—had mistakenly brought out, and graciously allowed us to keep.)
And so began my mission to make Perfect Panna Cotta for Valentine’s Day
I found the cute heart shaped ramekins at Cost Plus World Market.
There are many variations of Vanilla Panna Cotta out there, and I can’t believe I got suckered in by the 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt in Iron Chef Michael Symon’s recipe. (Either that or the boyish good looks and charm!)
I know a mere 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt won’t add protein or nutritional value to an entire recipe. (And it’s kind of ironic, since I gobbled up every last drop of remaining full-cream deliciousness—putting my usual fat free yogurts to shame!)
Anyway, I thought a little tang in the Panna Cotta would balance the sweetness of the sauce… right? Right!
Oh. My. Goodness. Your guests will be blown away by this beautiful and decadent dessert—surprisingly light, and not too rich or sweet.
If you want to keep it super-simple, just pour into serving glasses or cups and refrigerate—no need to un-mold before serving. (That part can get a little tricky.)
PLEASE try it! And let me know how you like it.
Foolproof Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta
Vanilla Beans are pricy, but really take this kind of a dessert to a whole other level. And they’re fun to use.
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the sticky seeds with the tip of a sharp knife.
If you don’t want to pony up for a real bean, vanilla essence will do the job. Be sure to use good quality, Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla. My favorite is Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract
Blooming the gelatin
This means dissolving it in a little water until it looks like jelly, which takes a few minutes. Then you dissolve it with hot liquid.
Pour through a fine sieve into a large bowl, to remove vanilla debris and make it smooth.
Place in an ice bath or refrigerate for about 15 minutes until cooled, whisking now and again.
Place the sauce in a squeeze bottle for easy drizzling. (Hubby had me bring it to the table so that he could have his own personal sauce party!)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about 1/2 packet)
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid oz) whole-milk Greek yogurt
- neutral tasting cooking oil spray (I use canola)
- 1/2 cup Nutella Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- Place cream and sugar in a small saucepan.
- Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with a sharp knife, and scrape out the seeds with a knife; add the seeds and pod to the saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. (Just a simmer, not a boil.)
- Discard the vanilla pod.
- While the cream is heating, “bloom” the gelatin: sprinkle over the milk in a small bowl and let stand until the gelatin softens, 5 - 10 minutes.
- Pour the gelatin mixture into the hot cream mixture (no need to scrape the extra gelatin bits left in the bowl) and whisk until dissolved. (Add vanilla extract, if using.) Remove from heat. Whisk and make sure that the sugar and gelatin have fully dissolved; then stir in the yogurt. (If the yogurt has become watery, pour off the water before incorporating.)
- Pour through a fine sieve into a large bowl, to remove vanilla debris and make it smooth. Place in an ice bath or refrigerate for about 15 minutes until cooled, whisking now and again.
- Note: if you pour it straight into ramekins or serving dishes, the vanilla seeds might sink to the bottom, or the yogurt might split.
- Spray ramekins with neutral tasting cooking oil spray. (If you’re serving in the dishes this step isn’t necessary.)
- Ladle into six to eight 4-ounce ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.
- Heat the Nutella, heavy cream, and milk over low heat, stirring often. (I use a double boiler) Set aside in a warm place if not using immediately. Pour into a squeeze bottle for easy drizzling.
- Run a sharp knife around the outside edge of the panna cotta to loosen it. Set each ramekin three-quarters of the way in hot water for 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top and flip over to unmold. If it doesn’t come out, put it back in the water for a few more seconds and try again. This can be a little tricky because you don't want to leave it in the water for too long because it will start to melt. If it doesn't come out easily, tap it on the counter or rub in between your hands to warm it up. It will come out eventually!
- Drizzle or ladle with warm sauce, or garnish with strawberry slices.
- You can refrigerate for 2 days before serving directly in the cups or in the bowl, or unmolding.
- Remove from refrigerator 10 to 20 minutes before serving if refrigerated overnight.
- You can unmold them up to two hours before serving, and place back in refrigerator.
- Make sure there are no strong odors in the fridge!