Vanilla Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert that proves perfection lies in simplicity. We love it paired with a homemade raspberry sauce. Deliciously creamy, with warm, sweet, and tart flavors, this dessert is perfect for any special occasion!

Plates with individual servings of panna cotta with raspberry sauce.


Table of Contents
  1. Why We Love This Recipe
  2. What You'll Need
  3. How to Make Panna Cotta
  4. Recipe FAQ's
  5. Tips for Success
  6. How to Serve Panna Cotta
  7. Substitutions and Variations
  8. More Raspberry Dessert Recipes You’ll Love
  9. Panna Cotta Recipe Recipe

Classic Vanilla Panna Cotta looks impressive, but it's really just luxurious simplicity! Whether you're planning a dinner party or looking for a fabulous finish to a family meal, this creamy, custard-like dessert is as delightful to present and eat as it is easy to make.

If it's your first time making panna cotta, you'll be surprised at how easy it is. With its silky texture and a hint of sweet vanilla, panna cotta is the perfect make-ahead dessert for any occasion.

This classic Italian dessert, literally translating to 'cooked cream', is proof that simple, basic ingredients can create a dish that feels indulgent and elegant.

The pure vanilla flavor shines through in this custard-like dessert, particularly when you use real vanilla beans or high-quality vanilla extract.

It's the perfect dessert for those special occasions or when you simply want to treat yourself to something extraordinary!

For more easy Italian desserts, check out my Italian PizzelleNo-Bake Strawberry Tiramisu, and these Chocolate-Dipped Almond Biscotti.

Why We Love This Recipe

  • Easily change up the flavors in this dish with other extracts or toppings.
  • This is an elegant dessert that will WOW your guests, but it's made with super simple ingredients!
  • It's a fantastic make-ahead dessert with only 15 minutes of prep time; just give it plenty of time to set up in the fridge!

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Whole Milk - Whole milk provides a rich flavor and creamy texture.
  • Heavy Cream - Use full-fat heavy cream for the best texture and flavor, giving the panna cotta its custard-like consistency.
  • Granulated Sugar - Sweetens the dessert without overpowering the vanilla and makes a syrupy consistency with the raspberries when reduced. You can use other sweeteners if you prefer but the amount needed and the end result may vary.
  • Water - Use room temperature water to hydrate the unflavored gelatin, which enables the panna cotta to set properly.
  • Gelatin - Use unflavored gelatin as the thickening agent, giving structure without the need for eggs. I use powdered gelatin for this recipe.
  • Vanilla Extract - To infuse the cream mixture with warm and sweet flavors. Use my Homemade Vanilla Extract for the best results.
  • Salt - Balances out the flavors and enhances the overall taste.
  • Raspberries - You can use fresh or frozen berries here. Their tartness offers a fruity counterpoint to the sweetness of the panna cotta.
Panna cotta ingredients.

How to Make Panna Cotta

  1. Hydrate or 'bloom' the gelatin. Add water to a shallow bowl, sprinkle gelatin evenly over the water to hydrate, and set aside.
  2. Whisk milk and sugar. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, warm milk and sugar, whisking occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and reaches a temperature of 140°F.
  1. Add gelatin. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and whisk in the bloomed gelatin mixture, making sure to remove all the gelatin from the bowl.
  2. Heat the pan. Return the pan to heat and cook until the gelatin is dissolved, 3–4 minutes, whisking constantly.
  1. Add cream, vanilla, and salt. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the cream, vanilla extract, and salt until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a 4-cup measuring cup or a container with a spout.
  2. Portion out and chill. Divide mixture evenly between 6 or 4-ounce ramekins or small glasses. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  1. Heat, mash, and strain the berries. To make the raspberry sauce, add raspberries to a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. While the berries heat, mash with a potato masher or a whisk. Let the berries heat for about 5 minutes, or until they have released their juices. Strain the raspberries through a mesh strainer to remove seeds, and rinse the pan to remove any seeds. Return the strained raspberry juice to the pan along with the ⅓ cup of sugar and whisk until combined.
  2. Reduce the mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; once the mixture begins to boil, reduce to medium and cook the mixture until it reduces slightly and becomes thick. This will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then pour the mixture into a bowl. Allow it to cool for 10–15 minutes, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. This should make 1 to 1½ cups of sauce.
  1. Put panna cotta on plates. To invert panna cotta onto a serving plate, run a thin knife along the top edge of the ramekin to loosen, only loosening about ⅛ inch deep. Place the ramekin in a bowl filled with warm water, measuring about ¾ up the side of the ramekin, then allow the ramekin to sit in water for about 1–2 minutes. Remove the ramekin from the water, dry it with a towel to remove excess water, and place the plate inverted and centered on the top of the ramekin. Hold the plate tightly to the ramekin quickly, then gently tap the ramekin to encourage the panna cotta to release. Gently lift the ramekin, leaving the formed panna cotta on the plate. If the panna cotta will not release from the ramekin, return to warm water for another minute, then repeat the process.
  2. Garnish and serve. Garnish with 2-3 tablespoons of raspberry sauce.

Recipe FAQ's

How long does panna cotta take to set?

Panna cotta typically takes at least 6 hours to set in the refrigerator, but leaving it overnight is ideal for the best texture.

Can I make panna cotta without gelatin?

Yes, agar agar is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin and can be used to set panna cotta, though the quantities and setting times may vary.

Is it possible to overcook the panna cotta mixture?

Yes! Do not cook the mixture for too long or at too high a temperature (don't let it boil), as this can cause the gelatin to break down, preventing the panna cotta from setting properly.

How do I store panna cotta?

Cover your panna cotta tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days. Panna Cotta is best enjoyed within 2 days of being freshly made, though. After storing your panna cotta, there might be some excess liquid on the top. Gently blot this away with a paper towel and refresh it by adding fresh toppings before serving.

Can I freeze panna cotta?

You can technically freeze it, but it may have a different texture after defrosting it, so I wouldn't recommend it.

Tips for Success

  • Make your panna cotta up to 2 days ahead of time and leave it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap until you're ready to serve it.
  • Use a thermometer to make sure you're reaching a precise temperature of 140°F when you're heating the milk and sugar mixture.
  • Clumps of gelatin can make your panna cotta grainy, so sprinkle the powdered gelatin evenly over the water. If the gelatin doesn’t dissolve well in the milk mixture, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer before pouring it into a glass or ramekin.
  • Whisk the ingredients together gently to avoid incorporating too much air into the mixture, as this can affect the final texture. Whisk just enough until the ingredients are fully combined.
  • Panna cotta can be made in almost any type of glass or ramekin. For an easier method and to avoid unmolding the panna cotta, use a small glass or individual dessert cups to serve the panna cotta in and simply top with sauce rather than turning the panna cotta out of the ramekin molds; this still makes for a pretty presentation.
  • Do not hurry the setting process. Panna cotta needs a minimum of 6 hours (but ideally overnight) in the refrigerator to set properly and achieve the perfect consistency. Make sure you have enough time to let it set properly, or you could end up with a bit of a mess on your hands!
  • To ensure your panna cotta comes away smoothly from the ramekin, dip the ramekin in warm water for a short time, then run a small knife along the edges before inverting it onto a plate.
An overhead image of a panna cotta dessert with raspberry sauce.

How to Serve Panna Cotta

Serve classic Vanilla Panna Cotta with different sauces, toppings, or sides to change the flavor of the overall dessert.

Try serving it with some slices of fresh fruit or a variety of fresh berries. The acidity and sweetness of the fruit will balance the richness of the panna cotta.

Some of my favorite toppings for Panna Cotta are:

For something extra special, try my Sparkling Sugared Cranberries or Candied Almonds as toppings!

If you're looking for something more indulgent, try my Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce, or Hot Fudge Sauce instead.

Spooning raspberry sauce over panna cotta.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Almond milk or coconut milk can be substituted for whole milk to cater to dairy-free dietary needs, though it may result in a less creamy texture.
  • Try other extracts, like almond, orange, or coffee, for a twist on the traditional flavor. Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and it's perfect for the holidays.
  • To add more flavor, you can even infuse your milk with split vanilla beans, vanilla bean paste, citrus zest, or spices while heating it.
  • Use my Raspberry Coulis recipe instead of the raspberry sauce here, or swap raspberries for other berries like strawberries or blueberries, or even a tropical mango puree or passion fruit for a different taste.
  • Get creative with your toppings and decorations, like I did with my Halloween Panna Cotta Eyeballs!

More Raspberry Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

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Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.

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Panna Cotta Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Amy Nash
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Vanilla Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert that proves perfection lies in simplicity. Deliciously creamy, with warm, sweet, and tart flavors, this dessert is perfect for any special occasion! 

Ingredients
  

Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • cup water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Raspberry Sauce

  • 24 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries
  • cup granulated sugar

Instructions
 

  • Add water to a shallow bowl, sprinkle gelatin evenly over water to hydrate, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, warm milk and sugar, whisking occasionally until sugar is dissolved and reaches a temperature of 140°F.
  • Remove pan from heat and whisk in gelatin mixture, making sure to remove all the gelatin from the bowl. Return pan to heat and cook until gelatin is dissolved, 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly.
  • Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream, vanilla extract, and salt until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour mixture into a 4-cup measuring cup or a container with a spout. Divide the mixture evenly between 6- 4-ounce ramekins or small glasses. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  • To make the raspberry sauce, add raspberries to a medium sized saucepan and place over medium heat. While berries heat, mash with a potato masher or a whisk. Let berries heat for about 5 minutes, or until they have released their juices.
  • Strain raspberries through a mesh strainer to remove seeds, and rinse pan to remove any seeds. Return the strained raspberry juice to the pan along with the ⅓ cup of sugar, whisk until combined.
  • Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, once mixture begins to boil, reduce to medium and cook mixture until reduce slightly and becomes thick, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat and pour mixture into a bowl, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, cover and refrigerate until ready to use, should make 1 to 1 ½ cups of sauce.
  • To invert panna cotta onto a serving plate, run a thin knife along the top edge of the ramekin to loosen, only loosening about ⅛ inch deep. Place ramekin in a bowl filled with warm water measuring about ¾ up the side of the ramekin.  Allow ramekin to sit in water for about 1-2minutes.
  • Remove ramekin from water, dry with a towel to remove excess water, place plate inverted centered on the top of the ramekin, hold plate tightly to the ramekin quickly turn. Gently tap ramekin to encourage the panna cotta to release.  Gently lift the ramekin leaving the formed panna cotta on the plate. Garnish with 2-3 tablespoons of raspberry sauce.

Notes

Storage
  • Store: Cover your panna cotta tightly in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days. Panna Cotta is best enjoyed within 2 days of being freshly made, though. After storing your panna cotta, there might be some excess liquid on the top. Gently blot this away with a paper towel and refresh it by adding fresh toppings before serving.
  • Freeze: You can technically freeze it, but it may have a different texture after defrosting it, so I wouldn't recommend it.

Nutrition

Calories: 468kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 235mg | Potassium: 310mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 1270IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 132mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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