I can’t recall the first time I tried panna cotta, the Italian dessert that translates to cooked cream. I do, however, remember the first time I fell in love with panna cotta.  Of all the places to fall in love, my was in the test kitchen of Cuisine at home magazine in Des Moines, IA where I worked for 4 months.  We were cooking a sit down meal for the lucky winners of a fundraiser, and dessert was panna cotta with a fruit compote.  Oh how sweet it was!  Thank you to my favorite Cuisiners, and especially to Sue Hoss!

Panna cotta is a deceivingly simple and light dessert.  In reality, it is quite easy to make, but it is rich in flavor and calories.  This year, I made my first panna cotta, based on the recipe from Cuisine at home magazine – I added lemon grass and ginger, slightly changed the methodology, and quickly cooked mango chutney.  This Lemongrass and Ginger Panna Cotta was part of the 30th Birthday Celebration dinner MangoTomato and I cooked for our dear friend Lera.


Panna Cotta
3 cups heavy cream
3-4 stalks lemon grass, sliced in half and bruised with a knife
5-6 slices of ginger
2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
3/4 cup sour cream

Mango Chutney
2 teaspoons butter
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
4 slices crystalized ginger, diced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
splash of Sparkling wine


1.  Heat heavy cream, lemon grass and ginger in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Stir occasionally, do not boil.  Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes to infuse the cream with lemon grass and ginger aroma.  Strain the cream, and return to the pot.  Add sugar and continue to heat for a few minutes until the sugar melts.  Remove the cream from the heat and whisk in vanilla and salt.

2.  Combine gelatin and water in a small bowl and allow the gelatin to bloom (it will resemble jello once it’s done).  Whisk in bloomed gelatin into warm cream.

3.  Slowly, whisk the cream mixture into sour cream.  Pour the panna cotta mixture into 6 ramekins.  Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, about 4 hours or overnight.

4.  Prior to serving the panna cotta, melt butter in a pot.  Add mangoes, ginger and sugar.  Cook about 5-10 minutes until the sugar melts.  Add a splash, or 2, of sparkling wine and reduce to desired consistency.

5.  Remove panna cotta from the refrigerator.  Run a small pairing knife around the edge of the mold and gently dip the mold in a hot water bath, to release the panna cotta.  Invert the panna cotta onto a dessert plate and garnish with mango.

We toasted Lera’s birthday with Novelty Hill Late Harvest 2007!  Happy birthday 🙂

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