Panna cotta has got to be one of the most underrated desserts out there. I mean if you like vanilla ice cream (who doesn’t?) you will definitely love this. But really, I love panna cotta so much more than ice cream. The ingredients are so simple, but the end result is creamy and luxurious.
Since the ingredient list is so minimal for this recipe I have to stress the importance of quality. That means the best cream you can find (I like Straus) and a real whole vanilla bean. Please don’t use extract. Of course you can use extract, but that’s really better suited for light flavor in a baked good. Real vanilla beans are essential when making a dessert where the vanilla flavor needs to shine.
Paired with a seasonal fruit purée, this is the perfect make-ahead dessert for summer parties since it requires at least a couple hours to chill anyway. You can serve it in the ramekins for an easy grab-and-mingle dessert, or unmold it onto a plate for a more elegant look.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
- 4 cups heavy ream
- 1 packet powdered gelatin (1/4 ounce)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
Very lightly grease 8 ramekins with cooking spray and set aside.
Pour the cream into a medium saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, until the surface is wrinkled and the gelatin has dissolved slightly. Set the pan over low heat and whisk in the sugar and vanilla bean seeds, continuing for about 5 minutes, until the sugar and gelatin have fully dissolved. Be mindful not to allow the cream to boil or simmer.
Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared ramekins and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. To unmold the panna cotta, place the ramekins in a hot water bath for a few seconds to loosen from the dish, then invert onto a plate. Serve with puréed berries or other seasonal fruit.
Refine Cooking Tips
- To remove the seeds, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with the tip of a knife.
- It is incredibly important to ensure the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved, otherwise the grains will sink to the bottom of the ramekins during chilling. To test this, rub a bit of the cream between your fingers and make sure it’s smooth.
- If unmolding onto a plate, wipe the plate with a damp paper towel before plating. A moist plate makes it easier to re-position the panna cotta, if needed.