Easy & Traditional Italian Panna Cotta Recipe with Vanilla

Traditional Italian Panna Cotta

Sometimes, just thinking about the hundreds of grapevines in the fields as you drive by or the winding streets in quaint Italian villages makes you long for a taste of Italy – this is exactly what this recipe tastes like.

This recipe is amazing for special occasions or just when you feel like wrapping up in a blanket on the couch and even a fantastic make-ahead dessert!

Best part? This classic vanilla panna cotta is super easy and fast to make – perfect for your first time making a traditional Italian dessert!

How to Make Panna Cotta with Vanilla From Scratch

Here’s what you need for this delicious dessert:

Basic Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin (about one envelope)
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Fresh fruit or fruit compote for serving (here, strawberries)

Alternative Ingredients:

  • Milk – almond milk or oat milk
  • Honey – sugar, stevia
  • Gelatin – agar agar

Step-by-Step Instructions for The Best Classic Panna Cotta Recipe

Step 1: Pour the 3 tbsp cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin sheets over it, then let it sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the gelatin powder softens and becomes spongy.

Step 2: In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, honey, and the vanilla extract (or vanilla seeds).

Step 3: Cook over low-medium heat, stirring it with a wooden spoon until the honey or sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot – make sure to not let it boil.

Step 4: If you used a vanilla bean pod, remove it. Otherwise, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream mixture to the creamy texture and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.

Step 5: Stir in the whole milk until well combined and the mixture is smooth.

Step 6: Pour the mixture into ramekins or molds lightly greased with olive oil (this helps if you want to put the panna cotta onto a plate later). 

Step 7: Put the panna cotta into the fridge for at least 4h, or leave it in the fridge overnight.

That’s it! To serve it, you can either leave it in the cup or bowl or unmold it by running a knife around the edges and inverting it onto a serving plate. Garnish it with fresh berries, fruit compote, or a drizzle of honey, chocolate, or caramel sauce.

Expert Tips

This recipe is super simple, however, here are things to make it the best panna cotta:

  • Set up the gelatin and cream up at the same time, it really helps timing wise!
  • When setting up the gelatin and “blooming” it, sprinkle it evenly on the water until the gelatin dissolves
  • Let the creamy Panna Cotta cool off at room temperature before placing in the fridge

Another tip if you’re a chocolate lover: make chocolate panna cotta by adding cocoa to the cream mix.

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What to Serve Panna Cotta With

Want to make it part of a course for dinner parties? We’ve got you.

Here are our suggestions for delicious food:

Appetizer

Main Course

  • Homemade lasagna 
  • Saltimbocca alla Romana
  • Spaghetti alla Carbonara
  • Risotto al Funghi
  • Frutti di Mare

Beverages

  • Prosecco
  • Aperol Spritz
  • Campari Soda

Wine

  • Chianti
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Barolo
  • Soave

Non-Alcoholic Options

Italian Panna Cotta recipe-best classic vanilla panna cotta recipe

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got questions? We’ve got the answers!

Can you make vegan panna cotta?

For a vegan Panna Cotta, use agar agar instead of gelatin, and full-fat coconut milk as a replacement for heavy cream. 

What is Panna Cotta made of?

Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert that will give you a taste of Italy. It’s made from heavy cream, honey, and gelatin. It is often flavored with vanilla or other flavorings and can be served chilled with fruit, coulis, or caramel.

How do I know when Panna Cotta is set?

When Panna Cotta is firm to the touch but still has a slight wobble to it you know it’s set. It usually takes around 4 hours in the refrigerator, though you can also leave it overnight to enjoy the next day.

Can I make Panna Cotta without gelatin?

Yes! You can use agar-agar, a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. However, because agar-agar sets firmer and at higher temperatures than gelatin, you will need to adjust the quantity and possibly the chilling time.

How can I flavor my Panna Cotta?

You can flavor Panna Cotta with a variety of ingredients such as vanilla beans, coffee, chocolate, liqueurs, citrus zest, or fruit purees, which you add to the cream when you’re cooking it.

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Traditional Italian Panna Cotta

Easy & Traditional Italian Panna Cotta Recipe with Vanilla


  • Author: Anna Dykeman

Ingredients

Scale

Basic Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (or 2 tsp pure vanilla extract)
  • 2 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin (about one envelope)
  • 3 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Fresh fruit or fruit compote for serving (here, strawberries)

Alternative Ingredients:

  • Milk – almond milk or oat milk
  • Honey – sugar, stevia
  • Gelatin – agar agar

Instructions

  1. Pour the 3 tbsp cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin sheets over it, then let it sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the gelatin powder softens and becomes spongy.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, honey, and the vanilla extract (or vanilla seeds).
  3. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring it with a wooden spoon until the honey or sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot – make sure to not let it boil.
  4. If you used a vanilla bean pod, remove it. Otherwise, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream mixture to the creamy texture and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
  5. Stir in the whole milk until well combined and the mixture is smooth.
  6. Pour the mixture into ramekins or molds lightly greased with olive oil (this helps if you want to put the panna cotta onto a plate later). 
  7. Put the panna cotta into the fridge for at least 4h, or leave it in the fridge overnight.

That’s it! To serve it, you can either leave it in the cup or bowl or unmold it by running a knife around the edges and inverting it onto a serving plate. Garnish it with fresh berries, fruit compote, or a drizzle of honey, chocolate, or caramel sauce.

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