If you are a fan of sweet and creamy desserts, then you cannot miss Panna Cotta. This Italian dessert is so simple yet so delicious. When someone mentions Italian desserts, most people will think of sweet dishes such as tiramisu, panettone, or gelato. Little do they know that Panna Cotta is just as delightful as the other desserts on the list, and its recipe requires much lesser ingredients and very little effort.
Panna Cotta’s Origin
Until this day, Panna Cotta’s origin is still a big question. What we know is that this dessert first appeared in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy during the early 1900s. The first person who made Panna Cotta was believed to be a Hungarian woman. Later on, Panna Cotta made the list of the region’s traditional foods. The name Panna Cotta translates to “cooked cream,” and this is exactly what Panna Cotta is made of. It is made of cooked cream along with a few simple ingredients such as gelatin to keep the cream in shape, sugar to sweeten the dessert, and vanilla extract to give Panna Cotta its sweet aroma. According to some sources, Panna Cotta used to be just cooked fresh cream and was eaten with fruits. Then, someone cooked the fresh cream with fishbone to thicken the cream since the fishbone contains gelatin. By the time gelatin sheets and gelatin powder were invented, people began to use store-bought gelatin to make Panna Cotta.
What Makes Panna Cotta Special
Panna Cotta has a distinctive taste. Since it is a combination of cooked sweetened cream with gelatin, it tastes like jello but creamier in texture. The Panna Cotta often comes in various shapes and sizes depending on the cook’s purpose. If you want to share Panna Cotta with your family and friends, you can either pour the Panna Cotta mixture into one big mold or many smaller individual molds with the shape of your choice. Let it cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, cut into smaller parts, and enjoy with fresh fruits or whipped cream on top. If you want to make Panna Cotta for just yourself, you can make just a small batch of Panna Cotta mixture and pour it into smaller containers or molds so that you can eat some and reserve some. Since Panna Cotta is made out of cream, and the amount of sugar in Panna Cotta is much lesser than the amount of sugar in other desserts, the Panna Cotta gets spoiled very easily. Once it is spoiled, you cannot do anything except throw the whole batch away.
Panna Cotta’s Variations
Nowadays, as Panna Cotta gained its popularity, numerous variations have strayed away from the original recipe. To make Panna Cotta more appetizing and appealing to customers, restaurants developed their own Panna Cotta recipes. While the original Panna Cotta was often topped with caramel sauce or fresh fruits, Panna Cotta nowadays can also be topped with strawberry sauce, raspberry sauce, chocolate sauce, and so on. Instead of using only fresh cream, many Panna Cotta recipes today also call for fruit purees or syrup to give Panna Cotta its new flavors and looks.
Other than Italy, many other countries also adopted the Panna Cotta recipe and added their own twists to the list of ingredients. For instance, countries like China and Japan are well-known for their green tea, so they often make Panna Cotta flavored with green tea or matcha. Similar to the Europeans, a lot of Asian customers love chocolate, resulting in restaurants incorporating chocolate into Panna Cotta. In Korea, Panna Cotta often comes in small bottles and is eaten as both a snack and dessert. Bottled Panna Cotta does not have any topping or sauce on top and is eaten by using a small spoon to scoop it out of the bottle. In Vietnam, Panna Cotta is often enjoyed as a dessert. The Vietnamese version of Panna Cotta is slightly more interesting than other versions in my opinion. In Vietnam, people often pour cooked Panna Cotta mixture into square or rectangle pans and let it cool down in the refrigerator. Once cooled, the Panna Cotta is cut into squares or cubes. The Panna Cotta comes in many flavors but lychee is the most popular. To enjoy, Panna Cotta cubes are added into a bowl along with canned lychee, canned fruits of your choice, lychee syrup, ice, and sliced almonds. This dessert is available almost everywhere, from street stands to fine dining restaurants. During the hot summer months, Vietnamese people usually eat this dessert to cool down.
If you have never had Panna Cotta before, try making it today. You can either follow the original simple recipe or more complex recipes that you like.