Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta

This one’s going to be short and sweet, because, hey! It’s Saturday! Ain’t nobody got time for reading long meandering blog posts. There are lawns to mow and trails to hike and friends to brunch with, or maybe just couches to nap on—whatever floats your Saturday boat. No judgment here.

I did want to pop in and share this quick party dessert recipe: Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta. Are you down with panna cotta? It’s a bit like a custard, but instead of being thickened with egg yolks or cornstarch, it uses unflavored gelatin. The gelatin gives it a really clean, pure texture, and lets the flavors of the simple ingredients shine through—in this case, heavy cream, crème fraîche (or sour cream), a bit of sugar, and vanilla bean paste.

Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta |

This panna cotta is soft and supple, spoon-able like pudding but not cloying or thick. The mix of sweetness and tanginess is echoed in the toppings of balsamic glaze, fresh strawberries, and fresh basil leaves. The best part, though, is that it comes together in 10 minutes, then all it takes is a little chill in the fridge until it’s ready to serve.

Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta |

Okay, I lied. The BEST best part is that everyone thinks they’re super fancy! I think it’s the name. Panna cotta must be Italian for “I am way better than you and I serve frou-frou desserts to prove it, capice?”

Seriously, though, I served these at our Godiva Girl’s Flight Night Party and everyone loved them. I felt like a character in a 1960’s tv show, deflecting compliments all night: “What, these old things? Oh nonsense, Gladys, they’re so easy to make, I must give you the recipe!” So here you go, Gladyses of the internet: the recipe for the easiest, most impressing-est, mostest tastiest thing you can serve your dinner guests. Capice?

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Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta
yield: 6 1/2-cup servings

2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz crème fraîche (can substitute full-fat sour cream)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (can substitute vanilla extract)
Pinch salt
Balsamic glaze (or 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar; see Note below)
Fresh strawberries
Fresh basil leaves

Whisk together the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Set it aside to let the gelatin absorb the water, for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the heavy cream and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Whisk together, and place over medium heat until the cream is hot and the sugar is dissolved, but do not allow the cream to boil. Remove the pan from the heat.

Microwave the bowl of gelatin for 15 seconds, until it is liquefied. Whisk the gelatin into the cream, then add the crème fraîche, vanilla bean paste, and salt. Whisk until everything is smooth.

Pour the panna cotta into six 1/2-cup serving bowls. Refrigerate them until chilled and set, at least 2 hours. (Panna cottas can be made several days in advance and kept in the refrigerator. If making in advance, cover the bowls loosely with cling wrap.) Garnish with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, a few sliced strawberries, and a sprinkle of fresh basil.

Note: I used prepackaged Balsamic Glaze (Trader Joe’s brand) which is a syrupy vinegar reduction that’s sweet, tart, and perfect with berries. If you don’t have the glaze, you can put 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer it until it reduces by half. Let it cool (it will thicken as it cools) then spoon it over the panna cotta.

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28 Responses to Crème Fraîche Panna Cotta
  1. I’ve never madee pannacota but I odn’t really know why, because it looks super easy, delish and fancy!! I love fancy desserts that are actually super easy, so I’m trying this as soon as I have time to get myself in the kitchen! I love the topping too :D

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Conseulo! Definitely give it a try–it’s crazy how simple (and delicious) it is. Especially good with any kind of fruit topping!

  2. Judy says:

    I love to watch various cooking shows. They make Panna Cotta’s and it seems like they are hard to make. Thanks for the recipe. Panna Cotta does sound like an impressive dessert.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Cooking shows are lying to you! Mix melted gelatin and cream, chill–boom. Done. Now you’re ready for your own cooking show. :) Thanks for stopping by, Judy.

  3. Johlene says:

    Love these! I´m in love with any dessert in a glass or jar or or or.. these are só cute :-) I have never made Panna Cotta, but would love to try!

    Greetings and hope you have a super week!!


    • Elizabeth says:

      Thanks Johlene! I’d bought these cute little parfait cups a month or two ago and didn’t know what I was going to use them for, but it’s like they were made for wee little servings of panna cotta. Obviously meant to be!

  4. These are beautiful! And I agree, “panna cotta” secretly means “everybody thinks this is super fancy.” haha.

  5. I’ve never actually had panna cotta before. But I’ve heard of it and your description makes it sound heavenly! I must try it, soon!

  6. Trisha says:

    I loveeeeee panna cotta and have never made it. I am too scared I think. But this recipe looks fab!! thanks for sharing. I will give it a go. x

    • Elizabeth says:

      Don’t be scurred! You’ll try it and wonder why everyone makes it out to be such a big deal–and then you’ll make it for guests and they’ll think you’re Martha Stewart! Mwahaha!

  7. I have always made panna cotta with fruit, but this looks wonderful. I can’t wait to give this a try. Oh, and I’ll have to go out and find cute little individual serving cups like yours too!

  8. Panna Cotta is a dessert I have not yet attempted but this recipe looks so delicious, I’ll have to give it a try.

  9. Danguole says:

    Bahaha, I love your old-timey TV voice.

    Panna cotta is one of my favorite things… I don’t have a recipe on my blog for it either, which is outrageous! Putting thinking cap on now, as we speak.

  10. I love panna cotta and any thing that involves créme fraîche and vanilla bean paste gets my vote.

  11. Your definition of panna cotta is THE BEST. Thank you for making me laugh! :) Well, if it is that easy and that delicious (it looks fantastic!) then I am so trying it! (I won’t say whether or not I am a Gladys of the internet or not … :)

  12. These are such cute little treats and like you said, perfecccccct for a party idea! :D Loveeeee it!

  13. Brian says:

    I’m not overly fond of Balsamic vinegar, but I’m very partial to Vino Cotto; (also Fig Vino Cotto) would you recommend these as a substitute as I fully intend to try out this recipe, the War Office aka my wife has nagged me for years to make panna cotta? Are Basil leaves really necessary; are they there for decoration or to eat? If for devouring can you suggest a substitute as I’m not particularly fond of eatng raw Basil leaves :)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi Brian, vino cotto (or fig vinno cotto) would be an excellent addition to this panna cotta! I mean, it’s fine on its own, but I think a little drizzle of that would be awesome. The basil is absolutely optional. We did nibble on the garnish, but it’s not the focus and can easily be omitted. I’d love to hear how it goes after you give them a try!

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