If I could pick just one dessert to eat every day for the rest of my life, it would be this. Bold statement, I know, but it’s worthy of it. This is the dessert I turn to 365 days a year, whether I’m inviting a couple of friends over for dinner or it’s simply Monday and I feel like something sweet.
I top it with berries in the summer, honey and chopped nuts in the winter, and a dollop of jam or caramel sauce in-between. It’s the epitome of fast and fancy, and something that needs to be in your repertoire.
Yogurt Is the Key to This Italian-Inspired Dessert
I am always in the mood to make this panna cotta. How could I not be when it barely requires any cooking, can be made ahead, and whisks me away to my days in Italy every time I take a spoon to the wobbly goodness?
I first discovered yogurt panna cotta when I was living in Italy. I was inviting friends over for dinner and wanted to make a dessert that required little from me, seeing as my tiny kitchen wasn’t exactly well-equipped. I stumbled upon this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and was intrigued by the use of Greek yogurt. Plus, I already had some on hand, since I always keep a tub of it in my refrigerator for breakfast. I was hooked after my first encounter. I loved how the yogurt lightened up the classic Italian dessert with its brightness and tang.
Soon, I was making it weekly, either for friends or just myself, and brought the recipe home with me to continue the tradition Stateside. Slowly I began tinkering with the original, coming up with my own recipe that incorporated elements of classic panna cotta I missed, like the fragrance of vanilla and a slightly more wobbly texture.
The Magic of Vanilla Bean Paste
This recipe calls for either vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. While vanilla extract is sure to already be in your pantry, I encourage you to splurge and add vanilla bean paste to your arsenal.
Vanilla bean paste is similar to extract, but it’s filled with the extra-aromatic vanilla bean seeds, so you get an even deeper vanilla flavor and those lovely-looking little black specks dappled throughout the panna cotta. (Plus, it’s way easier than scraping the beans out of vanilla bean pods). While it’s a bit more expensive that vanilla extract, a little goes a long way, and a bottle lasts for years.
Buy: Vanilla Bean Paste, $28
There’s no one way to top panna cotta. Since it’s such a light dessert, I find it’s a wonderful vessel for featuring the season’s best fruit, whether that’s tiny strawberries in June, juicy peaches in August, or colorful citrus in January. When great fruit doesn’t feel like an option, a drizzle of honey or shaved chocolate will do the trick. You really can’t go wrong.
I love to serve each panna cotta right in their ramekin, which to me is the most fuss-free serving suggestion that still feels fancy. But if you want to make things a little fancier, you can turn them out onto individual serving plates.
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