ItalianNotebook – Italy Travel Blog

Pistachio Panna Cotta

I remember the first time I ever tried a panna cotta. I loved how this delicate dessert melted in my mouth. How the cream was elevated with just a few simple ingredients and some fresh fruits or nuts. I was able to finish the panna cotta in under a minute.

It got me wondering who started this mouth-watering dessert.

Panna Cotta when translated to English is “cooked cream”. This is literally what you do to make this dessert. It started appearing in Italian cookbooks back sometime in the 1960s. It is also the traditional dessert of the northern Italian region of Piedmont. In fact, it is included in the 2001 list of traditional food products there.

Going back to when I first tried the panna cotta, I wanted to try to recreate it. Here’s a simple recipe that you can bust out to impress your friends and family to cap off a great dinner.

For this quick and easy Pistachio Panna Cotta you will need:

1 gelatin leaf

150 ml double cream

65 ml milk

35 g  white sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50 g grounded pistachio

How To Make It:

  1. In a small bowl with cold water, put the gelatin leaf to soften for about 5min.
  2. In a sauce pan, put the cream, milk, sugar, 30g of the pistachio and vanilla extract or other flavorings that you like. Heat gently until hot, but not buoyant.
  3. Remove the gelatin leaf from the water, squeeze out all the water and add it to the cream. Turn well until the gelatin completely dissolves. Leave to cool for 20-30min.

4. Divide the mixture into 4 small ramekins, then put to chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set perfectly.

5. Once completely cooled, serve the panna cotta with the remaining pistachio.

If you want, drizzle with some honey, condensed milk or any preferred topping.


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This recipe only makes 4 small ramekins of deliciousness however, you can adjust the recipe to make some more for the number of batches you will need. Depending on your mood and craving, the cream may also be flavored. You can do it either by infusing spices in it, or by adding rum, coffee, liquid essences, and the likes. Be sure to not to make it too over powering to still enjoy the delicateness of the dessert.

The molds may have caramel in the bottom, to make it taste like a crème caramel or a flan. Your other options for toppings when serving it are coulis of berries, or a sauce of caramel or chocolate. It may also be covered with other fruits or liqueurs.

Gelatin substitute:

If you have trouble finding gelatin sheets, you may go for the powder which is more common and easier to find in grocery stores. They are basically the same animal collagen extracted from the connective tissue, skin, and bones. It is heated slowly until it is broken down, giving you a gelatin substance.  

The difference when making them is that to achieve the gelatin powder, the substance is dried out and pulverized into fine grains while the gelatin leaf is dried into thin sheets.

How to Use Each Type:

For powdered gelatin, add a few tablespoons of warm water and stir for a few minutes until the gelatin is dissolved. Make sure to never boil any gelatin mixture as it will lose its thickening quality. If you are adding sugar to the recipe, mix it with the powdered gelatin before dissolving it in the liquid.

For leaf gelatin, soak the sheets in cold water for five minutes to soften them up. Then remove and gently squeeze the leaves to remove any excess water.

What do you use if you cannot find the type of gelatin called for in a recipe?

Remember that one packet (1 tablespoon) of powdered gelatin is equivalent to four gelatin sheets. This is enough to soft-set 2 cups of liquid. Adjust how much sheets or powdered gelatin you will put depending on your recipe.

There are also vegetarian gelatin alternatives, including agar-agar, which is made from seaweed. It is sold in powder form, solid blocks, or in thin strands. You can also use arrowroot, guar gum, xanthan gum, pectin, and kudzu (an Asian plant).

I hope you liked our Pistachio Panna Cotta recipe as well as the tips for the gelatin substitutes! Let us know in the comments below! Buon Appetito!

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