A Classic Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe
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Spring’s earliest fruit plays the lead in this centerpiece-worthy Strawberry Panna Cotta recipe, perfect for Brunch or your Easter buffet.
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
A Classic Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe
Strawberries come in fast in the spring. It seems like once they begin ripening, I am already behind trying to catch up with creative ways to use them.
I’ve learned from trial and error that easy recipes with the least amount of ingredients allow this lovely little fruit to shine. That the best results, the end result, is oftentimes a dinner party-worthy elegant dessert such as this Strawberry Panna Cotta recipe.
Though panna cotta sets in right around 8 hours, allow ample time (I go overnight) for the dessert to firm up. It’s worth it to me to assemble it and wait to unmold it until the next day.
Do You Have What’s Needed to Assemble a Classic Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe Like This One? Check The List!
- whole milk
- strawberry gelatin
- unflavored gelatin
- mascarpone cheese
- frozen whipped topping
- fresh and very ripe strawberries
- assorted fresh berries, for garnish
- fresh whipped cream
- fresh strawberry puree
How This Recipe Came About…
It was the purchase of a copper kitchen mold at a yard sale that started this off. The kind every 1970s housewife had hanging on the wall as a sort of decorative object.
It was a dollar and my cousin Holly had to talk me into it as it was. I truly never saw myself using it for cooking until she pressed me on why I didn’t have some fancy Italian dessert “lined up” for something like this mold…so, I had to get it to be able to have the last word.
Until this mold, most of my flans, puddings, mousse, and panna cottas were loaded into pretty serving glasses that could double as dessert cups. This would be an excellent excuse to come up with an aspic or gelatin mold for very little investment, as most of my food blogger equipment comes steep…
What Is Panna Cotta?
Panna Cotta translates from Italian to English as “cooked cream.” And, as the words imply, this is a dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin and then molded. The cream may be steeped with coffee, vanilla, or in the case of today’s recipe, strawberry.
Although the name means ‘cooked cream’, the ingredients are only warmed enough to dissolve the powdered gelatin and sugar. The remainder of the method is handled by a mold with a capacity of at least 4 cups or a small Bundt pan.
The texture of panna cotta is silky, its temperature cool but not ice cold. Regardless of the flavor imposed, panna cotta tastes like “springtime on a spoon.”
It is the perfect dessert for warm weather because it requires only simple ingredients and a few easy-to-follow steps. It is also a delicate dessert and should not be left to sit on a table in direct sun or heat or it risks melting.
Because of the bright color and fanciful plating, this creamy dessert is showy enough for your Easter buffet, Sunday Brunch, or a date night where you want to show off your kitchen prowess.
Do I Need a Fancy Mold to Make This Dessert?
No. The most important aspect of molding this is to locate something in your home that has the capacity to hold 4 cups. It’s a volume thing before it’s an aesthetic thing.
Before my dollar mold, I used a medium bowl to set my panna cotta. Once un-molded, it basically looked like a big pink dome, and dressed with blackberries and strawberries and fresh currants, it looked rather regal.
If you do own a mold, bust it out for this recipe. Everything from themed cake pans to serving bowls with ridges or escalloped edges works.
You will also need a flat-ish plate or serving platter. I find a flat cake plate or cake stand works the best.
The one I am using in my photos is a lovely pink Depression glass hexagonal cake stand that I picked up from yet another estate sale. Its subtle hue is entirely beautiful beneath the deep color of my strawberry panna cotta dessert.
Can I Use Frozen Strawberries in This Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe?
I know I will be asked if frozen strawberries may be used in this recipe, however I have yet to try it. Before saying yes to frozen, I would advise you to use fresh whenever possible.
I feel like frozen strawberries (even once thawed) possess a lot of excess water that would inevitably make setting the panna cotta mixture a challenging process.
If you must use frozen berries, I would be cautious and go so far as to add an additional teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in the recipe. I would also anticipate allowing the panna cotta mixture more than 8 hours to set.
How to Make This Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe?
As a reminder if you missed it my intro, panna cotta sets up in about 8 hours. If however you are able to assemble it and allow it to chill overnight, I highly recommend it.
Draw 1/8 cup of tap water and allow it to come to room temperature, about 20 minutes. While the water comes up in temp, gather your ingredients and measure everything out.
Wash and destem/hull a couple of cups of very ripe, fresh strawberries. Do not overlook overripe berries here, as they will work wonderfully for the strawberry puree as long as they are not brown or mushy.
Select a vessel of at least a 4-cup capacity and spray it with cooking spray. Use a Bundt pan or a mixing bowl if you like.
To the water, sprinkle gelatin over the surface (about a tablespoon of unflavored) and allow it to sit for 1 minute. Then stir the now softened gelatin to dissolve it.
Begin the Panna Cotta
Add whole milk to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low heat to keep the milk hot.
To the barrel of your food processor, add the strawberries, a package of strawberry gelatin, the dissolved unflavored gelatin, and the hot milk. Mix until almost smooth, then add some mascarpone cheese, partially thawed frozen whipped topping, and some cold whole milk. Mix again going for almost smooth.
Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the strawberry mixture into a small bowl. I like to use a rubber spatula to press the liquids from the pulp.
Chilling Sufficiently and Unmolding
Pour the gelatin mixture into your prepared mold or vessel. Place plastic wrap over the mold and pop into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
To unmold the panna cotta, submerge the bottom of the mold in hot water for a couple of seconds to loosen the custard. Remove from the water bath and use the platter on which you will serve from as a ‘lid’ and place it over the mold.
Invert the mold and platter. Allow the panna cotta 30 seconds to 1 minute to unmold. You should hear it release.
If it does not release after a minute, resubmerge it in the hot water again for another few seconds and repeat the inversion process. Once the panna cotta is unmolded, remove the mold and refrigerate to stop any melting on the surface.
How to Handle Melt and Subsequent Garnish
In the case of the mold in my photos, I used a Q-Tip to go along the bottom and ‘clean up’ any melted panna cotta before garnishing. Sometimes it becomes necessary to do this, but the brief refrigeration will handle any melting from the unmolding process almost immediately.
I like to garnish the dessert on the platter with fresh berries and fruit. I place separate bowls of freshly whipped vanilla bean whipped cream, and sometimes fresh strawberry sauce alongside the panna cotta so eaters may serve themselves.
Modifying the Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average…
The beauty of this recipe is that the flavored gelatin and the fruits may be swapped out for any flavored gelatin or fruit.
Simply keep the remaining ingredients in cheque and balance with combinations such as lime gelatin and crushed pineapple, raspberry gelatin and mixed fresh berries, or even watermelon gelatin and guava and papaya fruits.
A Classic Strawberry Panna Cotta Recipe
- food processor or
- gelatin mold or
- Bundt pan
- plastic film
- 3 cups whole milk divided
- 6 ounce package strawberry gelatin
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1/8 cup room temperature water
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese softened
- 4 ounces frozen whipped topping partially thawed
- 2 cups strawberries fresh, washed, hulled and halved
optional for garnishing
- freshly whipped cream
- fresh assorted berries
- strawberry sauce
- Spray a 4-cup capacity gelatin mold or Bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of the whole milk to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. To the barrel of a food processor, add the strawberries, the strawberry gelatin, the dissolved unflavored gelatin, hot milk, mascarpone cheese, partially thawed frozen whipped topping, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups of cold whole milk. Mix until almost smooth, about 1 minute.
- Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the strawberry mixture into a small bowl. I like to use a rubber spatula to press the liquids from the pulp. Pour the gelatin mixture into the prepared mold or Bundt. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. NOTE I assemble the day before I plan to serve this and chill for at least overnight.
- Submerge the mold in a hot water bath for a couple of seconds to loosen the custard. Remove from the water bath and use the platter on which you will serve from as a 'lid' and place it over the mold. Invert the mold and platter. Allow the panna cotta 30 seconds to 1 minute to unmold. You should hear it release like a slurping vacuum. NOTE If the panna cotta does not release after 1 minute, resubmerge it in the hot water for another few seconds and repeat the inversion process.
- Once the panna cotta is unmolded, remove the mold and refrigerate to stop any melting on the surface. NOTE see my notes below regarding how to handle and clean up after any subsequent melt.
- Garnish the dessert on the platter with fresh berries and fruit. Place separate bowls of freshly whipped cream and fresh strawberry sauce alongside the panna cotta so eaters may serve themselves.
Oh how I love Panna Cotta! We travel to Italy often and I have had some amazing panna cotta….but I need to try your recipe out! It sounds amazing.
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