|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Piedmont|
|Main ingredients||Cream, sugar, gelatin|
Panna cotta (Italian for "cooked cream") is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and molded. The cream may be aromatized with coffee, vanilla, or other flavorings.
The name panna cotta is not mentioned in Italian cookbooks before the 1960s, yet it is often cited as a traditional dessert of the northern Italian region of Piedmont. One unverified story says that it was invented by a Hungarian woman in the Langhe in the early 1900s. An 1879 dictionary mentions a dish called latte inglese 'English milk', made of cream cooked with gelatin and molded, though other sources say that latte inglese is made with egg yolks, like crème anglaise; perhaps the name covered any thickened custard-like preparation. Another theory says that it comes from the french fromage bavarois, this recipe from the 18th century was created by Marie-Antoine Carême and it is the same as modern panna cotta except that one part of the cream is whipped before adding the gelatin.
The Region of Piedmont includes panna cotta in its 2001 list of traditional food products of the region. Its recipe includes cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, gelatin, rum, and marsala poured into a mold with caramel. Another author considers the traditional flavoring to be peach eau-de-vie, and the traditional presentation not to have sauce or other garnishes.
Panna cotta became fashionable in the United States in the 1990s.
Sugar is dissolved in warm cream. The cream may be flavored, either by infusing spices and the like in it, or by adding rum, coffee, vanilla, and so on. Gelatin is dissolved in a cold liquid (usually water), then added to the warm cream mixture. This is poured into molds and allowed to set. The molds may have caramel in the bottoms, giving a result similar to a crème caramel. After it solidifies, the panna cotta is usually unmolded onto a serving plate.
Although the name means 'cooked cream', the ingredients are only warmed enough to dissolve the gelatin and sugar. Italian recipes sometimes call for colla di pesce 'fish glue', which may literally be isinglass or more likely simply a name for common gelatin.
Panna cotta is often served with a coulis of berries, or a sauce of caramel or chocolate. It may be covered with other fruits or liqueurs.
Bavarian cream is similar to panna cotta, but usually includes eggs as well as gelatin, and is mixed with whipped cream before setting.
Blancmange is sometimes thickened with gelatin or isinglass, sometimes with starch.
Panna cotta is sometimes called a custard, but true custard is thickened with egg yolks, not gelatin.