Panna cotta (or “cooked milk”) must be the world’s simplest dessert; yet it impresses guests and tastes wonderful. It’s really a blank canvas to add other flavors: in this case, basil and lemon. It’s best to make it the day before serving and refrigerate it overnight. Using flip-top jars is a great way to make in advance and avoid refrigerator order absorbing into the panna cotta.
The warm cream is thickened by adding gelatin. My preferred type is gelatin sheets, available at specialty restaurant suppliers and online. I use “silver sheets” with “160 bloom power” (there are other strengths) from Surfas in Los Angeles. This type of gelatin is guaranteed to melt nicely into the warm liquid.
For this recipe, the strawberry sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated.
Serves 6 to 8 people.
Ingredients and Directions:
- 4 oz. fresh basil, washed and dried with paper towels
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 6 gelatin sheets
- 1 cup + ⅓ cup sugar, separated
- Grated zest from 1 lemon
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 pint ripe strawberries, washed
- Mint leaves
- In a saucepan gently heat the cream over low heat. Add the basil and lemon zest and gently steep as you would a tea. Once the basil is fully wilted, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
- In a bowl of cool water, place the gelatin sheets to soften.
- Strain the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another saucepan.
- Put over medium heat. When the cream is warm add the 1 cup of sugar and lemon juice. Stir to dissolve.
- Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and wring the water out with your hands and add to the warm cream. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
- Pour mixture into 6 dessert cups and cover. Place cups onto a tray and then put in the refrigerator to chill and set about 6 hours or overnight.
- Serve with strawberry sauce and top with a few fresh mint leaves if you like.
- Hull the washed strawberries or just cut off the tops.
- Place the strawberries in a small saucepan and add the ⅓ cup sugar. Stir to combine.
- Place over medium-low heat and let the strawberries become very soft.
- Using an emersion blender, puree the strawberries.
- Strain through a fine mess strainer into a measuring cup for easy pouring. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.