Make this vanilla panna cotta, then check out our coconut panna cotta, passion fruit panna cotta and white chocolate panna cotta. For more expert tips, read our recipe guide on how to make panna cotta.

We've also got plenty more ideas for Italian dessert recipes, including a classic tiramisu, Sicilian ricotta cake, cannoli and Italian lemon cake.

This wonderful wobbly dessert originates in Piedmont in the north of Italy, where the use of cream is more prevalent. After much experimentation, we've whittled it down to a simple formula of 500ml liquid to 2½ leaves of gelatine and 80g caster sugar. The liquid can be made from a single ingredient or a combination of ingredients, such as single or double cream, natural or Greek-style yoghurt, milk, coffee liqueur or fruit juices.


  • 2½ leaves, or use 7g powdered gelatine leaf gelatine
  • 200ml milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • from 1 vanilla pod vanilla pod seeds, or use 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (we used Nielsen-Massey vanilla bean paste)
  • 80g caster or icing sugar


  • STEP 1

    Soak the leaves of gelatine in a little cold water, or follow the pack instructions for softening the powdered gelatine.

  • STEP 2

    Combine the milk and cream in a bowl, then pour about a quarter of the mixture into a saucepan over a low heat. Add the vanilla seeds or bean paste. Tip in the sugar and stir until dissolved, then remove from the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatine sheets and add these to the pan (or add the powdered gelatine). Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, returning the pan to the heat if necessary.

  • STEP 3

    Strain the warmed liquid through a sieve into the bowl with the milk and cream (straining the mixture helps remove any undissolved gelatine). Stir. Set the bowl over a second, larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally (this helps the vanilla seeds to disperse evenly).

  • STEP 4

    When the panna cotta is just starting to set, ladle it into 120ml pudding moulds, then transfer these to the fridge and chill until set. Alternatively, set the panna cottas in shot glasses, martini glasses or other dessert glasses. Dip the outside of the moulds in hot water for a couple of seconds to help loosen the panna cottas, then turn out onto serving plates or bowls and serve.

Check out our best Italian desserts

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