Looking for a quick, easy but elegant dessert to ring in the new year? Look no further than this Italian dessert of panna cotta, which literally translates to “cooked cream.” While heavy cream and sugar aren’t exactly diet friendly, it is the holidays after all and this recipe does include some yogurt. Well now, that settles it. It’s downright nutritious too! And did I say delicious? Surrounded by a moat of raspberry sauce and a central jumble of fresh berries, it’s a festive dessert and one you’ll want to keep in your back pocket for other special occasions too, like Valentine’s Day.
Make sure you use a real vanilla bean and good vanilla extract, not vanilla flavoring. The good folks at Marx Foods were kind enough to send me some Tahitian and Madagascar vanilla beans to try. Tahitian vanilla beans are usually shorter, plumper, and contain a higher oil and water content than Madagascar or Bourbon beans. When compared to Madagascar vanilla beans, they have a slightly more fruity and floral aroma, but an equally rich vanilla flavor. For this recipe, I used one of the Tahitian beans, but the Madagascar would work just as well.
If you’ve never used real vanilla beans, you won’t believe the fragrance they exude once you split open the bean and unveil those little seeds that resemble miniature black caviar eggs. Naturally all that vanilla goodness imbues itself into whatever recipe you’re using, but it’s particularly noticeable in dishes like panna cotta, crème brulee or homemade vanilla ice cream.
This dessert literally goes together in ten minutes, then you can pour it into individual ramekins, or use a tube ring for a large crowd. I used a 5-cup ring and oiled the pan just ever so slightly, to help release the panna cotta.
When you’re ready to unmold, run a knife around the edge of the metal tube pan, place a dish over the top and flip. If it seems ornery and unwilling to plop out, wet a dish towel with hot water and place over the metal, or dip the metal mold into a bit of hot water. You may have to repeat it a few times, but it should release with no problem. Surround with the raspberry sauce and fill the center hole with the mixed berries. Look at all those specks of vanilla bean.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, bet you won’t be able to resist this:
Recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa At Home
The yogurt in this recipe makes it not quite authentically Italian, but it adds a nice tang without being sour. I used a little less yogurt than the recipe called for. She also serves it with balsamic strawberries on the side, recipe below. My recipe for the mixed berries and the raspberry sauce follows.
- 1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 3 cups heavy cream, divided
- 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (I used two 6-oz. containers of plain Greek yogurt)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 4 pints (8 cups) sliced fresh strawberries
- 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated lemon zest, for serving
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds. Heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cream and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Pour into 8 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or custard cups (or one large mold) and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar, tablespoon sugar, and pepper 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Set aside at room temperature.
To serve, run a small knife around each dessert in the ramekin and dip the bottom of each ramekin quickly in a bowl of hot tap water. Invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and surround the panna cotta with strawberries. Dust lightly with freshly grated lemon zest and serve.
Boil together one 10- or 12-ounce package of frozen raspberries, 2 T. water and 1/4 cup sugar. Boil for about five minutes, then force through a strainer. Add 1 tsp. lemon juice and refrigerate.
Buy fresh mixed berries (I used 1 pt. raspberries, 1/2 pt. blackberries and 1/2 pt. blueberries) Mix with some sugar (about 1/2 cup), juice of one orange and the rind, zested. Stir and let sit for at least one hour.
Serve the mixed berries in the center of the panna cotta, or on the side if making individual ones, and surround with the raspberry sauce.