Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian silky custard dessert made with cream and gelatin. This easy to make-ahead lemon version is delicious and refreshing after a winter meal and would be a perfect ending to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. Make it in ramekins or in little glass jars and serve it, alongside a glass of port, with a pinch of bright yellow lemon zest and a mint sprig on the side.
Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings or 8 (1/3 cup) servings
2 Silver (160 bloom) gelatin leaves or 2 teaspoons gelatin powder
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
Peel from 1 lemon
Soak the gelatin leaves in a large bowl of ice water until soft, about 4 – 5 minutes. (If using gelatin powder, mix it with ¼ cup cold water and set it aside.
While the gelatin soaks, heat the cream, milk, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over med-high heat. Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small knife. Scrape out the seeds and add it and bean to the pot along with the lemon peel. Decrease the heat to med-low and simmer. When you see small bubbles all the way around the rim, take the pan off the heat and set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Squeeze the gelatin leaves gently to remove excess water. Add the gelatin leaves (or the gelatin powder & water mixture) to the milk mixture. Stir until the gelatin melts, about 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.
Ladle into six 6 ounce ramekins, glasses or jars. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with fresh fruit, mint or a citrus twist. Serve chilled.