I’ve always been something of a food purist. I’m probably the only person over the age of 5 who actually prefers a plain cheese pizza to one with a zillion toppings. Pasta nirvana for me is a bowl of spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s three-ingredient tomato sauce. And I take my vanilla ice cream straight up — no add-ins, thankyouverymuch. It’s not that I don’t appreciate more complex flavor combinations, because I do. But sometimes I just like to savor the purity of really good ingredients, like fresh, local, organic cream from happy cows; or sweet and juicy, ripened by the sun, heirloom tomatoes. And I love that soft tug against my teeth when I bite into a buttery, melting mass of fresh mozzarella that was made by real hands.
I like my panna cotta straight up as well. Nothing says heaven like a soft, pillowy cloud of simply sweetened, pristine creaminess, adorned by nothing more than a smattering of fresh berries. Oooh! I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Panna cotta is one of the easiest desserts to make. Yet it’s so velvety and luxurious, one would never guess. This basic “fior di Latte,” or “flower of milk” panna cotta recipe contains only three ingredients: cream or milk, sugar and gelatin. That’s it! And, you can whip up a batch in less than 15 minutes. If you want to jazz your panna cotta up a bit, you can add any number of different flavorings to the base, as well as a variety of toppings. Or, you could just leave it plain and revel in its silky creaminess and sublime simplicity. It’s all good. That’s why this recipe is such a “must have” in anyone’s dessert repertoire. Its ease of preparation, versatility and elegant presentation make it perfect for every occasion.
Fior di Latte Panna Cotta
Makes 6-8 servings
4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
6 tablespoons cold water
1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan until hot, but not simmering. Keep stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. If you’re using any extra flavoring, now is the time to add it.
2. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand for about 10 minutes.
3. Pour the hot cream mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
4. You can serve the panna cotta either in custard cups, pretty glasses or unmolded. If you plan to unmold the panna cotta, lightly coat the inside of the cups/molds with a neutral-tasting oil before pouring the mixture in, so they will slide out easily. Then, divide the panna cotta mixture into your cups, glasses or molds, and chill until firm, at least two hours.
5. If unmolding, run a sharp knife around the edge of each panna cotta and unmold each onto a small plate. Garnish as desired.
*Note: To flavor your panna cotta, simply add 2 teaspoons of whatever flavoring you’re using to the cream base before combining it with the gelatin, and follow the rest of the recipe as written.