Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

In my quest for a patriotic dessert to make in honor of the Fourth of July, I came across many that utilize summer’s bounty of red and blue berries.  It just wasn’t the Fourth as a kid without a flag cake!  This red, white and blue dessert is a bit fancier than flag cake, and is really much easier.  No fruity stars and stripes here.  Just classically beautiful and incredibly good.

Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream.  It has always seemed a little daunting to me, but this is truly one of the easiest desserts I have ever made.  The ability to make this days in advance is appealing to me…as someone who tends to stress before having guests.  Make these early and that’s one less thing to worry about the day of your party.

You can probably tell by the ingredient list that this is not a dessert you would enjoy every night of the week.  It is so very rich, so wonderfully creamy and perfectly smooth.  If you don’t have vanilla beans, then you can use a teaspoon of vanilla extract or ,better yet, vanilla bean paste which would give you the nice specks in this otherwise pure white dessert.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

From Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans, split
  • pinch of salt
  • Assorted fresh berries


  1. Place the milk in a heavy, small saucepan.  Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir over medium heat until gelatin dissolves, but milk does not boil, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cream, honey, sugar, vanilla beans and salt.  Stir over heat until sugar dissolves.  Remove vanilla beans and scrape out seeds into the mixture.  Stir to distribute.
  4. Remove from the heat and divide the cream mixture into 6-8 cups (wine glasses are pretty, but dessert cups or ramekins are fine).
  5. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.
  6. Garnish with berries and a sprig of mint.