How to Make Panna Cotta 

As I was learning how to make panna cotta, I found that like other classic Italian desserts, it is made with the abundantly available fresh cream. Up until the eighteenth century a recipe like this, using sugar as the sweetener was only reserved for the wealthy and kings. Up until then honey was the only sweetener available. For this reason the Italian desserts are divided into two eras; the ancient and the modern. The ancient recipes were variations of the basic bread and pastry doughs like the panatone.

As I was learning how to make panna cotta I found like tiramisu, these desserts came with the availability of sugar. The emergence of more elaborate and complex recipes mark the beginning of true dessert making. Basic country ingredients like flour, milk, sugar, honey, almonds and chestnuts testify to a wide spread agricultural economy. Actually they had a rebirth of the ancient Roman desserts with adjustments made in the ingredients. Today the recipes are the same but with the addition of an abundance of eggs, cocoa and liqueurs.

Italian cooks continued to learn how to make panna cotta and other Italian desserts in the homes rather than by restaurant chefs like here in the United States. Today, nearly all desserts originated with political events or peace treaties; each community will have their own adaptation of these desserts. It is not clear when or what event brought about the origination of the panna cotta recipe. It is assumed that it came from the mountainous Northern Italy region which is so famous for its fresh cream and was historically eaten with fruit and berries. It is thought that the Sabayon recipe and most of the creams and custards also developed from this area.

Panna Cotta is a delicious Italian dessert. It is one of the traditional Italian foods and has a base of gelatin, cream and sugar. It is much like custard in the U.S.; it is cooked and can be served with fruit or a dessert sauce.


  • 1 Cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 Cup sugar
  • 1 Envelope plain gelatin
  • ¼ Cup cold water
  • ½ Teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 Teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 Cup sour cream
  • Strawberries, peaches, blueberries or other fruit

Place cream and sugar in the top of a double boiler and heat over hot water until sugar is dissolved. Soak gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes. Stir gelatin mixture into hot milk mixture and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add almond extract and lemon rind. Let mixture cool until syrupy. Fold in the sour cream until lightly blended. Pour into a small oiled mold and chill until firm. Unmold and garnish with fruit.

This is a cooked cream dessert. It is made with gelatin and is served cold with fruit, nuts or a sauce.


  • 1 ½ Cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ Teaspoon salt
  • ½ Cup butter
  • 6 Peaches peeled and halved
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Egg yolks
  • 1 Cup whipping cream
  • Italian vanilla ice cream

Combine flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt; press in bottom and up sides of 8 inch pan.

Arrange peaches cut side down over crust.

Combine 1 cup sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over peaches.

Bake at 400F degrees for 15 minutes.

Combine and blend egg yolks and whipping cream; pour over peaches.

Bake additional 30 minutes; serve warm with ice cream.


  • 2 Cups DRY ricotta cheese 
  • 1 Whole egg
  • 4 Eggs separated, whites stiffly beaten
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • ¼ Cup flour
  • ¼ Teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ Cup candied orange peel finely diced
  • ¼ Cup candied citron finely diced
  • 1 Lemon, the peel grated
  • ¼ cup rum
  • Powdered sugar
  • Ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Put ricotta in large mixing bowl; beat in whole egg and the four egg yolks.

With the mixer on medium speed beat in sugar, flour and nutmeg until blended.

Fold in by hand the candied fruits, lemon peel and rum until smooth.

Fold the stiffly beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture.

Generously oil a 2 quart baking mold; spoon in ricotta filling no more than ½ full.

Bake about 30 minutes or until pudding is puffed and golden.

Cool to warm; remove from mold to a serving plate.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a little cinnamon; serve warm or cold.


  • 6 Egg yolks
  • 1 Cup superfine sugar
  • 1 ¼ Cups dry white wine
  • 6 Strips lemon peel cut into tiny julienne strips

Beat together in 2 quart sauce pan the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy about 8 to 10 minutes.

Set pan over hot water (just under boiling); whisk constantly as slowly pouring in wine adding lemon peel.

Continue whisking until mixture froths and triples in volume and pale in color.

Remove pan from heat and continue whisking for another minute.

Pour into individual dessert glasses; add whipped cream if desired.


This pastry cream can be served like panna cotta, with sauce or fruit. It can also be used as the base for many Italian desserts.

  • 4 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/3 Cups light cream
  • 2 Egg yolks
  • 2 Whole eggs
  • 2 Teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ Teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in cream in saucepan over low heat; scald but do not boil.

Beat egg yolks, whole eggs, cornstarch, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in mixing bowl.

Vigorously beat in the hot mixture and place back on heat; do not boil but cook and stir until cream thickens.

Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and lemon zest; let mixture cool and then chill.