This Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries is my favorite dessert to make for a dinner party. It’s beautiful, you can do all of the cooking ahead of time, and it is absolutely delicious!!
You may be surprised to see that in this recipe, strawberries are soaked in balsamic vinegar and black pepper? Well just wait until you taste the incredible flavors of this unlikely combination. Absolutely wonderful!
The gorgeous presentation of this dish along with the winning combination of sweet, tangy, peppery and creamy, make for a deliciously exciting finish for a great meal.
What is panna cotta?
- Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert made with gelatin and cream. The cream is heated, sweetened, and flavored with vanilla or chocolate or whatever is desired.
- Panna cotta resembles pudding and flan, but it’s eggless. It’s set with gelatin instead of eggs.
How to make vanilla panna cotta with balsamic strawberries
Panna cotta looks fancy but it’s a cinch to make!
- Make the Panna Cotta: Mix gelatin with water in a small bowl. Whisk half the cream, yogurt, vanilla extract and vanilla beans together in a medium bowl. Heat the remaining cream with sugar, until the sugar melts. Add gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the panna cotta into ramekins, cover and chill, until ready to serve.
- Make the Balsamic Strawberries and Serve: Thinly slice the strawberries and toss them with balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper. Leave them to macerate, at room temperature, for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Un-mold the panna cottas and tilt them onto individual dessert plates. Top them with balsamic strawberries and serve.
Because this recipe uses vanilla extract as well as freshly scraped vanilla seeds from a vanilla bean, it has the most wonderfully intense vanilla flavor.
Vanilla beans are an expensive indulgence. If you want to get a little extra mileage from your vanilla bean after you’ve scraped out the seeds, you can soak it in a mini bottle of bourbon or vodka for a month or more to make homemade vanilla extract or you can bury it in sugar to make vanilla sugar.
If you’ve never soaked strawberries in balsamic vinegar, prepare to be delighted. They bring out the best in each other. Black pepper adds a unique and exciting kick.
Panna Cotta Make Ahead Tips
One of the many great things about this panna cotta recipe is that much of the prep work can be done well in advance of your dinner.
- You can mix up your panna cotta, pour it into ramekins and chill it over night or for up to two days.
- Cut up the strawberries a few hours ahead and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
- A half hour to an hour before serving dessert, toss the strawberries with balsamic vinegar, sugar and black pepper, and let them macerate for at least a half hour and up to an hour.
- Transfer the panna cottas to dessert plates and, just before serving, spoon the strawberries on top, garnish them with a sprig of mint or basil, and serve them.
The sweet and sour tanginess of the balsamic strawberries is a wonderful compliment to the creamy vanilla panna cotta.
The credit for this recipe goes to Ina Garten. It’s minimally adapted from a recipe in her cookbook Barefoot Contessa At Home.
Here’s the recipe for Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries. If you try this recipe I hope you’ll come back to leave a star rating and comment. I’d love to know what you think!Print
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries
The perfect make-ahead dessert for a special dinner. Creamy vanilla panna cotta with tangy balsamic strawberries
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 2 mins
- Total Time: 24 hours 2 mins
- Yield: 8-10 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Method: simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
Equipment: You’ll need 8-10 (6-8-ounce) ramekins for molding the panna cottas (or if you prefer, you can use large glasses for molding and serving the panna cottas)
For The Panna Cotta
- 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder (1 packet plus 1 teaspoon)
- 3 cups heavy cream, divided
- 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla Bean, sliced down the middle
- 3/4 cup sugar
For The Balsamic Strawberries
- 4 pints fresh strawberries (8 cups)
- 5 tablespoons balsamic Vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Fresh mint or basil sprigs
- Make The Panna Cotta: Put 4 tablespoons cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top and stir to combine. In a large bowl whisk together 1½ cups of the cream with the yogurt (2 cups) and vanilla extract (1½ teaspoons). With a small sharp knife, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean halves and add them to the mixture.
- In a small pot, heat the remaining 1½ cups of cream with the sugar (3/4 cup), over medium heat, stirring, until it just starts to simmer and the sugar melts. Remove it from the heat, add the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold mixture and whisk to combine. Ladle about 4 ounces of the mixture into each ramekin or glass. Let them cool slightly, then put them into the fridge, uncovered, until fully cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to two days.
- Make the Balsamic Strawberries and Serve: Thinly slice the strawberries (1/4-inch slices). You can slice them and keep them in the fridge up to four hours before serving. A half hour to an hour before serving put the strawberries into a large bowl with the balsamic vinegar (5 tablespoons), sugar (2 tablespoons), and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon). Toss gently and leave them to macerate, at room temperature, for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Un-mold the panna cottas by running a small knife around the inside of each ramekin a few times to loosen them. Tilt them onto individual dessert plates. Top them with macerated strawberries and spoon any remaining balsamic sauce on top. Add mint or basil sprigs to garnish, if you like. If you’re serving these in glasses, just add the macerated strawberries on top and garnish before serving.
Make ahead strategies: Panna cotta can be made, poured into ramekins, covered and stored in the fridge for up to two days. Strawberries can be sliced up to 4 hours ahead.
[This post first appeared on Panning The Globe in December 2013. It was updated in February 2020 with new photos, added nutritional information, clarifying details in the written post and clearer instructions in the recipe.]
Nutrition Information: The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and is not a substitute for the advice of a professional nutritionist.
Keywords: panna cotta, vanilla panna cotta,