Panna cotta is a classic Italian dish, but now so popular, it is eaten and appreciated everywhere. The translation of the name is cooked (cotta) cream (panna). The classic Italian panna cotta is normally flavored only with vanilla and served with fresh summer fruits. Rarely will you find it with added flavorings, but don't let that stop you. In this recipe, the fragrant tang, taste, and fabulous color of blood oranges shine brightly with the cooked cream. Blood oranges are available December through to May, so make the most of them while you can.
The traditional Italian panna cotta is such a lovely, simple, and easy to make dessert requiring only a few ingredients of cream, sugar, gelatin, and flavoring. From the classic dish with just a touch of vanilla, the luscious, silky cream is open to many lovely flavors restricted only by your imagination. No wonder this dessert is so loved. With its simplicity and versatility to make, it is a showstopper for a dinner party or at a family supper.
- When using the gelatin leaf (preferably) soak the leaves in a little cold water for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the panna cotta. Follow the packet instruction if using powdered gelatin.
- Place the cream into a medium-sized saucepan, add the sugar and, over a low heat, stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the blood orange zest and all but 2 teaspoons of the juice.
- Stir gently without making too many bubbles; you are aiming to create a smooth-textured panna cotta, not an airy mousse.
- Lift the gelatin leaves from the water and give them a good squeeze to remove as much of the water as possible. Add the gelatin to the warmed cream and stir gently again until dissolved.
- Divide the cooked cream evenly between 6 ramekins. Take the remaining blood orange juice, tip a tiny amount into each ramekin and using a toothpick or fine skewer, stir ever so carefully to swish the pink juice through the cream.
- Pop the ramekins into the fridge for 4 hours (or overnight) until set.
- To remove from the ramekins briefly dip the ramekin into a bowl of boiling water, taking care not to get the water into the panna cotta. Remove immediately and invert onto your serving plate. Serve topped with a few pieces of blood orange.
Notes on Making a Panna cotta:
- Panna cotta is set using gelatin, which you should always approach with a little caution as too much, and the dessert becomes rubber-like instead of a gentle wobbly set known in chef circles as the panna cotta wobble.
- The Panna cotta can be made a day before they are needed (no longer than that, as they begin to taste stale) as long as they are covered and stored in the fridge, making them an excellent dessert for a dinner party, or a simple mid-week supper. A truly versatile dish in our opinion.