December 6, 2016How to Make the Perfect Panna Cotta

panna cotta covered in fruit

Recently I was lucky enough to have lunch with the wonderful Louise Legard, a dear friend and one of the most fabulous managers of my cookery courses over the past 23 years.

As so often happens when you’ve known someone for so long you are quick to take a trip down memory lane – Louise did that for me instantly by producing the perfect panna cotta. It was Carla’s Tomasi’s recipe – the recipe we have both adored since we first ate it in Tuscany at Fattoria Montelucci. It then followed us to all the beautiful Italian regions in which we ran courses: Umbria, Sicily, the Veneto – and if it could have followed us to France, Spain and Thailand we would have taken it!

Carla used to make it in the classes with our guests sharing her secret tips for the perfect panna cotta and always, always making extra wobbly, creamy, vanilla-infused puddings to keep Louise and I going throughout the week. Before breakfast we would make our way to the fridge and take one just as the morning table on the terrace was being loaded up with fresh breads, pastries, home-made jams, local cheeses and salumi for our guests. We would secretly eat our treasure in the quiet of the early morning overlooking the vineyards and olive groves – such a wonderful way to start a busy day of food, wine, and the good things in life.

Carla now accuses me of having an ‘affair’ with panna cotta – how could you not when the memories it brings back are so wonderful.

The Recipe

Without doubt the easiest pudding to prepare. It pleases everybody and is a good all-rounder for every season. Delicious in spring and summer with berries and during the autumn and winter with caramelised pears or apples. It looks quite stunning if resting on a pool of sauce, the likes of caramel, coffee, fruit coulis or spiced saffron cream. A little “crunch” is also welcome, and I usually serve it with a couple of thin, crisp biscuits.

Serves 4


Cooking Instructions

  1. Place the double cream, sugar, grappa and vanilla seeds in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil.
  2. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. In the meantime, soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water until they are floppy.
  4. Squeeze out any excess water and drop into the hot cream.
  5. Stir until dissolved.
  6. Pour the cream into the four moulds and leave to cool for a while before placing them in the refrigerator. (To speed up the process if you are in a hurry you may place the moulds in a bath of iced water for 20 min and then refrigerate until set. They need at least 2.5 hours if your fridge is in good nick, otherwise longer.)
  7. To unmould quickly dip the bottom of the moulds in kettle hot water, then invert on each plate and they will slide out. Be careful not to leave them in hot water for too long or they will melt too much at the edges.

The consistency and thickness of leaf gelatine varies so you will have to experiment a little.

Bear in mind that with gelatine less is more, and when turned out of the mould they have to be very wobbly indeed.

Copyright Carla Tomasi

Tempted by Carla’s perfect panna cotta recipe? For another delicious, authentic Italian dessert, check out our panettone recipe.