Also known as panna cotta, this dessert originates from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy where the land is fertile and milk production is abundant.  My first experience with panna cotta was in a little village restaurant on top of a hill in Montecatini Alto (Tuscany).  I still remember our meal there from 2 years ago.  We started with a bottle of local wine and a seafood antipasto, then braised wild boar ravioli, penne with calamari in zimino (stewed squid), thinly sliced veal, and the panna cotta (with a light chocolate sauce) for dessert.  It was set ever so softly (just enough so that it could hold its shape) and had the perfect balance of lightness and creaminess in texture.  We lingered at our table in the open air.  The night was warm, the breeze gentle and cool, and the stars twinkled above.

Milk Pudding, 2 Ways 

The top left picture shows a handful of black raspberries (picked from our friends’ Kevin & Rachael’s land).  Picking was a torture since the fruits were small and the vines thorny.  The mosquitoes also had a nice time with us.  I counted 9 bites on my body when we got home.  I think maybe it was worth it because I made several jars of amazing syrup from an almost colander full of berries.  The first drizzle was used in my vanilla bean panna cotta dessert (top right picture).  As you can see, I got almost halfway into it before I  remembered to take a picture.  It was that good!


Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta (with black raspberry sauce)


Put the milk and sugar into a pan.  Scrape in the vanilla beans and add the pod into the mix.  Warm until it starts to simmer and the sugar is dissolved.  Turn off the heat and take out the vanilla bean pod.  In a small bowl, Dissolve the gelatin powder in the water then add it to the milk mixture.  Pour the milk into small containers (like ramekins or tea cups) if you want it to set quicker.  You can also present it using an ornate dessert mold. Cover with a plastic wrap then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight for the large mold).

You can serve it in the container or take it out.  To do this let the ramekins stand in warm water for about two minutes then invert onto a plate.  Enjoy as it or top with some fruit and/or syrup of your choice.

Another way to enjoy panna cotta is with young sweet corn.  We stopped to get them at the sweetest small market called Preston Valley Produce just outside of Montfort last weekend.


Sweet Corn Panna Cotta

  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 ears of corn (set aside about 2 T. of whole corn kernels)
  •  3 T. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 packet powdered gelatin
  • 3 T. cold water (to dissolve the gelatin)

Blend the corn kernels with 2 cups of milk until smooth.  Strain the liquid.  Let the liquid simmer in pan for about 5 minutes and dissolve the sugar.  Add the vanilla extract and the water and gelatin mixture.  Put a little bit of the whole corn kernels into the containers then pour the milk on top.  Cover and refrigerate.






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