Panna Cotta
with a Cherry Custard Sauce

I love Spring.. the color's as they unfold in my garden scapes, the beams of light as they come through my windows, the light breeze and the crispness of the air with the undetones of dry heat caressing my face. Have you ever heard of the term, "Prelude to a Kiss"? For me Spring is just that, something is just beyond the horizon, around the corner the unexpected.

This caramel topped Panna Cotta is a prelude to an experience with your senses. The texture of Panna Cotta is so creamy, it's smooth like yogurt but has a firm consistency like a flan. It's another one of those desserts that are versatile with the flavorings and toppings. In my Regional Italian Cookbook, the gelatin is diluted in Marsala before adding it to the heated cream. This is where I play with flavors. I did use Marsala here, but you can get so creative and use rose water, lavender essence, diluted honey or your favorite liqueur. If you are making chocolate flavored Panna Cotta I would add the cocoa to the cream and use water to dilute your gelatin. Have fun with it, taste, create, design.. but most of all enjoy!


1 quart heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise, seeds scraped
2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons *Marsala

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring the mixture just to a simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the *Marsala and let stand until evenly moistened, about 5 minutes.

3. Uncover the cream mixture and bring just to a simmer over moderately high heat. Remove from heat, add the gelatin and stir until dissolved. Remove the vanilla bean and save for another use. Pour the panna cotta mixture into eight 4-ounce ramekins and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the panna cotta is set but still jiggly, at least 3 hours. Serve in the ramekins, with berries.

4. *If you do not have a preference for Marsala you can surely replace the liquid here with water or another liqueur of your choice.

Make Ahead
The panna cottas can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. In my experience they firm up nicer after 12-24 hours.

When you make your caramel, don't get freaked out when you add your cream and it crystallizes.. keep stirring at medium low heat and the crystals will melt back into a creamy thick caramel. And the cherries in the caramel.. to die for!! This recipe was adapted from Epicureous and called for canned pumpkin but I subbed it with my own canned fruit choice. It worked wonderfully!
Ciao and Buon Appetito,

Cherry Custard Sauce
adapted from Epicureous online

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup canned pitted cherry pie filling
2 tsp. Sherry

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook until mixture is deep amber, stirring constantly, about 8 minutes (mixture will be grainy). Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cream. Mixture will bubble and crystallize. Stir until till crystal caramel bits dissolve, about 8 minutes. Add sherry to cherry filling. Add cherry filling to caramel; stir until heated. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)


RecipeGirl said...

Simply gorgeous dessert! I've never, ever made panna cotta. The cherry caramel sauce sounds to die for!

RecipeGirl said...

By the way, if you have any experience w/ cannoli, let me know! I have to make them next weekend for a dinner party... shells and all!

The Duo Dishes said...

Cherry caramel is comepletely unheard of for us. That's a dessert with so many levels of flavor.

Bellini Valli said...

I love the blue & white plate as well:D

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Love panna all time favourite dessert laurie, & yours is especially indulgent! Very Spring & very inviting!

Sara said...

This looks so delicious! I have those same lavender and freesia flowers in my yard too.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful photo, Laurie xox

Kasha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kasha said...

Your blog and recipes are incredible! I must try the Chicken and Mushroom Saute. Thank you for this incredible journey of the palate. I am most definitely adding this blog to my blog. I would sure appreciate it if you would add mine to yours.
Thank you so much!

The Blonde Duck said...

That looks so light and delicious!

Heidi from Savory Tv said...

Simply gorgeous.

YankeeSoaper said...

What a lovely dish and photo. Perfect for spring! I bet it's just yummy!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Magnificent! Love your photo and words.
Happy Easter my friend!
Hugs, Marie