Try this recipe for panna cotta with cherry sauce, then check out our vanilla panna cotta, coconut panna cotta, white chocolate panna cotta and more Italian-style dessert recipes.

The perfect panna cotta (‘cooked cream’ in Italian) should be just set enough to hold together, but soft and creamy enough to melt in the mouth. Gelatine is the secret to this texture and it can be a tricky ingredient to handle – but follow these simple rules and you’ll have it mastered in no time.

How to make panna cotta at home

1. Golden ratio of gelatine

This can be a tricky balance to strike – too little gelatine and it won’t set, too much and the dessert will be rubbery. A ratio of 3½ sheets to 700ml of liquid ensures that the panna cottas set fully but still wobble and melt in the mouth.

2. Keep the gelatine cool

Putting the gelatine into ice-cold water ensures it’s very soft but will not dissolve into the soaking water. The cold water hydrates the gelatine’s protein network so it dissolves quickly and evenly. If you were to put a gelatine sheet straight into the hot liquid, it would lump together. Squeeze out as much water as possible from the gelatine when draining it – any excess water will affect the gelatine to liquid ratio. Using leaf gelatine, as opposed to powdered, gives a clearer-looking panna cotta.

3. How to dissolve the gelatine

Adding the softened gelatine to the hot cream ensures it dissolves evenly and reaches its full setting capability – make sure not to boil the cream because if the gelatine gets too hot this can stop it from working as well. Pouring the mixture through a fine sieve means you can check if the gelatine has fully dissolved – if there are any small lumps, tip these back into the pan with the cream and heat very gently to dissolve.

4. How to set the panna cotta

To ensure you have vanilla seeds all the way through the panna cottas, leave the mixture in the jug for 5-10 minutes – as it cools it will thicken slightly, meaning the seeds will be suspended throughout once poured into the moulds.

5. Create different flavours

Vanilla is just one flavour to try – as long as the cream, milk, sugar and gelatine ratios remain the same, feel free to infuse the cream with ginger, star anise or bay leaves.

6. Which moulds to use

The size and shape of dariole pudding basins are perfect for panna cottas because they taper at the top, meaning once turned out they will have a broad base to hold themselves up. You can use ramekins but, as they’re straight sided, they may sag slightly.

7. How to cleanly remove from the mould

Dipping the mould briefly in hot water is the easiest way to cleanly remove the panna cottas. The hot water will melt the gelatine in a very fine layer all the way around the mould, allowing it to slide out freely. Sometimes they stick because of suction – if so, don’t be tempted to cut around the edge with a small knife or you’ll ruin that beautiful, clean finish. Just use a finger to gently pull the panna the side of the mould and the pudding should free itself.


  • 3½ leaves fine leaf gelatine
  • 400g double cream
  • 300g whole milk
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out or vanilla bean paste 1 tsp


  • 500g black cherries, pitted
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 balls stem ginger, finely chopped, plus 2 tbsp syrup from the jar
  • ½ lemon, juiced


  • STEP 1

    Soak the gelatine in a bowl with ice and cold water for 10 minutes until very soft.

  • STEP 2

    Put the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla pod and seeds into a pan and bring gently to a simmer. Drain the gelatine through a fine sieve, discarding any ice and then squeeze out as much water as possible. Add to the cream and mix really well. Pour through a fine sieve into a jug. Leave for 5-10 minutes to thicken slightly, then mix really well and divide evenly between 6 x 150ml small pudding basins or suitable moulds. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours but preferably overnight.

  • STEP 3

    Put the cherries, sugar, cornflour, ginger and syrup into a pan and cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until thick and saucy. Add the lemon juice and cool.

  • STEP 4

    To serve, carefully dip the base of a mould in hot water for 3-4 seconds to loosen the panna cotta, then invert onto a plate. Spoon over the cherry and ginger sauce and repeat with the remaining panna cottas.

*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards

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Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor

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