Heavy Cream Custard

Panna Cotta

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • 6


Appears in

Marcella Cucina

By Marcella Hazan

Published 1997

  • About

Panna cotta is the most weightless of custards. It has a soothingly silky feel on the palate, it is just sweet enough, and I have never known anyone who didn’t like it. For a short period, however, when I was working with it in an American kitchen, I hated it.

Panna cotta means cooked cream, and that is the way I make it in Italy, allowing the cream to boil. At home in Venice it came out perfectly, but on each of my first attempts in the States, I ended up with a gummy residue on the bottom, even before adding the gelatin. One day, as I picked up the container to hurl it into the trash can, my eye was caught by the fine print, and I discovered that it contained a density enhancer that, at high heat, hardens and precipitates. The solution became clear: Do not let the cream boil.


  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream; see headnote
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • -ounce envelope gelatin plus 1 teaspoon

6 custard ramekins


  1. Put the sugar, cream, and milk in a saucepan, turn the heat on to medium high, and stir steadily.
  2. Remove the pan from heat just as its contents begin to bubble, but before they boil. While stirring, drizzle in all the gelatin. Continue to stir for 5 minutes, then empty the pan into a bowl. Stir occasionally while the mixture cools.
  3. When cold, pour the mixture into the ramekins and place them in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, or even better, overnight.
  4. When ready to serve, bring water to a simmer in a small skillet. Loosen the custard from the sides of the ramekin using a knife blade. Put the ramekin bottom down in the skillet for 1 or 2 seconds, then turn it over onto an individual serving plate, shake to unmold the custard, and serve.

Serving Suggestion

Marinate raspberries or blueberries or strawberries, or a mixture of them, in a small bowl with 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar for at least 30 minutes—an hour or two would be better—and pour over each custard before serving.