This Vanilla Panna Cotta Is the Perfect End to Any Summer Dinner Party

Making panna cotta is as simple as dissolving gelatin powder into milk and mixing it with cream and sugar. A balsamic strawberry topping brings the dessert together.
Panna cotta with strawberry salad is the dessert of the summer.
Panna cotta with strawberry salad is the dessert of the summer. /

Many people associate summer with nostalgic treats like popsicles and ice cream cones. If you’re looking for a more mature dessert to kick off the season, check out the recipe below from the Institute of Culinary Education. This vanilla panna cotta with balsamic strawberry salad will end your summer dinner parties on a classy note.

Panna cotta looks—and tastes—impressive, but bringing it together is deceptively simple. The most important part is dissolving the gelatin powder, which takes just a few minutes. That’s the key to the dessert’s delightfully jiggly consistency.

“If [home cooks have] made JELL-O pudding, it’s a similar concept,” Pauline Balboa Pelea, chef-instructor of Pastry & Baking Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, tells Mental Floss. “You’re basically melting gelatin into the liquid, and it will set it up. It’s very easy. You just have to make sure the gelatin powder is fully hydrated, because you can’t just drop gelatin powder into boiling liquid. You have to completely absorb it first before it activates.” 

After allowing the gelatin to fully absorb into the milk, combine the cream, sugar, and remaining milk in a separate pot. Steep a vanilla bean in the cream mixture for 5 minutes, or alternatively, flavor it with vanilla extract or vanilla paste. Discard the bean pod if using.

Bring the pot with the cream to a boil, remove it from the heat, and add the gelatin. Stir until it’s fully incorporated into the liquid. Strain the mixture into a new bowl, then separate it into individual serving containers. Allow it to set in the refrigerator for approximately two hours. Top with the macerated strawberry salad before serving.

The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, with campuses on both the east and west coasts. In addition to their culinary arts classes, they offer training programs in hospitality and hotel management. You can browse their complete course curricula on their website

Panna Cotta With Strawberry Salad

Yield: 12 6 oz. glass containers

Panna Cotta Ingredients
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tsp gelatin powder
2 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean

Strawberry Salad Ingredients
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb strawberries, tops cut off and quartered
1 tbsp tarragon, chiffonade
1/4 cup sugar

  1. Place 1/4 cup of milk into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin powder onto the surface, making sure it gets hydrated. Allow it to stand for several minutes for the gelatin to be absorbed by the milk.
  2. Place the cream, the rest of the milk, and the sugar in a medium sized pot. Split the vanilla bean with a paring knife. Scrape the seeds into the pot with the cream using the back of the knife. Add the bean to the pot as well. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and infuse for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream mixture and return to a boil. Remove from heat and add the gelatin into the pot. Using a spatula, mix until the gelatin is fully melted.
  4. Place a strainer on top of another container. Pass the mixture through the strainer. Pour the mix about halfway into the prepared containers and refrigerate for approximately 2 hours or until set.
  5. Make the topping: Mix the sugar and tarragon in a bowl, then add the strawberries and vinegar and stir. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until the strawberries are macerated.
  6. To serve: Spoon strawberry salad on top of the panna cotta before serving.

Recipe from the Institute of Culinary Education.

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