Panna cotta, so common on dessert menus at fancy restaurants, is among the simplest things to make. Essentially Italian Jell-O made with plain gelatin and cream, it can be flavored any way you like, just like creme brulee – try infusing the cream with citrus zest, fresh ginger or loose tea leaves, or Because it’s chilled, you can make it ahead of time. Because it’s versatile, you can top it with fresh berries, kiwi, mango, or whatever is in season. Or for something more decadent, try a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce.
Panna cotta makes a deliciously light dessert – perfect after an indulgent meal and not only can you make it ahead of time – it takes about 5 minutes to whisk together.
Vanilla Mascarpone Panna Cotta with Berries
1 pkg. plain gelatin (or 1 tablespoon if you buy it in bulk)
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup honey or sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
fresh berries, for serving
Pour the cream into a medium pot and sprinkle with gelatin. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the gelatin soften. Set the pot over medium heat and stir, warming the cream but not letting it boil, until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Add the milk, mascarpone and honey and cook, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into individual wine glasses, small dishes or ramekins. (If you want to unmould them onto a plate to serve them, spray the dishes with nonstick spray first.) Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until set. (These can be made up to a few days in advance; cover each dish with plastic wrap to avoid having them dry out and get wrinkly on top.) Serve in dishes or unmoulded, topped with berries. Serves 6-8.