This beautiful, fresh-tasting dessert is ideal for serving at the end to a barbecue or spicy meal. They can be turned out of dariole moulds or made in small glasses or jars. Either way, it is a simple, yet elegant pudding.
What is panna cotta?
Meaning ‘cooked cream’ in Italian, this dessert is a delicious blend of sweetened cream thickened with gelatine and moulded into shape. In most cases, the cream mixture is flavoured with coffee or vanilla.
In our recipe, we use the sublime combination of coconut and pineapple yoghurt but it will work just as well with other fruit combinations. Panna cotta as a dessert doesn’t really make it into Italian cookbooks until the 1960s, although some people think it was a long time traditional dessert of the northern Italian region of Piedmont.
There is a tradition that it was a Hungarian woman who created the first panna cotta in the 1900s, but there is no documenting of this. There is a very similar cooked, English traditional dessert from the 19th century that may also be the basis of this dessert too but Piedmont has claimed it as its own.
In recent years, the dessert has enjoyed somewhat of a revival, a lighter alternative to some of the gateaux and chocolate-laden desserts that clogged the buffet table during the 70s and 80s.
Making panna cotta
A simple enough dessert to make, there is a classic elegance to the beautiful texture dessert. Understanding the process of making this dessert is important, however. It cannot be rushed or half done because the results can be a curdled mess.
You will need to make it a few hours in advance of your dinner party if you choose to serve this dessert, but it makes a great finish to any meal.
If you haven’t used gelatine before, seeing it in the list of ingredients can be daunting. It simply thickens the mixture so that it sets to a jelly-like, but dense mixture.
You can buy a vegetarian gelatine if you prefer to use this, just make sure you check the instruction on your vegetarian product to see how much they recommend.
Too much gelatine will leave you with a too dense and cloying textured dessert but not enough will leave it too runny.
Pineapple and Coconut Panna Cotta
- 200 ml double cream
- 50 g caster sugar
- 300 g coconut and pineapple yoghurt Waitrose and Sainsburys sell a nice one
- 3 gelatine leaves
- 2 tbsp of yoghurt
- Small chunks of fresh pineapple
- Mini meringues
- Dried pineapple
- Coconut chunks
- First, dry the pineapple. Thinly slicing pineapple before placing on baking parchment and drying out in the oven at 90°c for 2-3 hours. If not using straight away, store in an airtight container.
- Place the gelatine leaves into a tub of cold water and allow to soak for 5 minutes until they absorb some of the water.
- Gently heat the double cream and sugar in a small pan and warm until it just starts to simmer. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a couple of minutes then whisk in the gelatin.
- Allow the cream mixture to continue to cool until it is just warm and then stir in the yoghurt until it is completely combined.
- Pour the panna cotta mix into your moulds/glasses and chill in the fridge until set. This usually takes 3-4 hours.
- When ready to serve, remove the panna cotta from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature. Using a silicone pastry brush paint an arc on the plate with the yoghurt and decorated with the meringues, pineapple and coconut chunks
- Remove the panna cotta from the moulds and place on the inside of the arc. Top with the dried pineapple.
Panna cotta is traditionally served with a heap of fruit on the side and we have followed this tradition by using thinly sliced pineapple, the sharpness of which is offset by the creamy coconut. The addition of a crunchy meringue is the perfect foil to the smooth texture of the panna cotta.
Learn how to make a delicious mango panna cotta on our Italian Cooking Class with Sara Danesin Medio.