Panna Cotta Three Ways: Mango with Pistachios, Roasted Plums, and Prickly Pear Confiture

Panna Cotta is a well-known Italian dessert, but it’s also one of the easiest Italian dishes to prepare. It’s as simple as making jello. You heat the cream, sugar, and vanilla, stir in the gelatin and let it sit.

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Now, what you decide to do with this creamy, decadent dish is up to you. I’m in Mexico at the moment, where ripe mangos are literally falling from the sky, tiny moscat plums that look like oversized cherries are in season, and every few days someone brings a batch of prickly pears to the market.

Because no one in my family can decide on what kind of fruit they want, I made all three. The mango is so sweet that it doesn’t need sugar, but it’s very slightly acidic against the creamy panna cotta. The plums carmelize during roasting and have a sweet, smoky taste. The prickly pear cactus is unexpectedly sweet and easy to eat.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good vanilla extract (or even better, one whole vanilla bean)
  • 1 tablespoon of gelatin

Preparation:

Combine the gelatin with three tablespoons of cold water and let it sit for 10 minutes. If you pour it straight into the hot cream, it will clump. Heat the cream, sugar, and vanilla, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn, until it comes to a boil. Then take it off the heat. Mix the gelatin in until it is dissolved and pour the cream mixture into 12 ramekins, glasses, small bowls, or a mold. Place them in the fridge for at least two hours for the gelatin to set.

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Panna Cotta with Mango and Pistachios

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of the vanilla panna cotta from above
  • 1 ripe mango
  • 24 pistachios

Preparation:

Peel and dice the mango, then puree it in your blender. After the panna cotta has set, spoon it on top and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

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Panna Cotta with Roasted Plums

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of the vanilla panna cotta from above
  • 4-5 ripe plums (or a dozen small moscat plums)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla
  • 2 oranges for juicing (I used Valencia)
  • 3-4 tablespoons of sugar

Preparation:

Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees. Quarter the plums and discard the stones. Place the plums facing skin down in a non-stick pan. Squeeze the juice from two oranges and combine with the vanilla. Pour over the plums. Spoon a little bit of sugar onto each plum. Put into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the plums are soft. Be careful to not let the caramelizing sugar on the bottom of the pan burn.

Carefully remove the plums, then put 1/4 cup of water into the pan to deglaze it. Pop it back into the oven (turn off the oven, but it should still be warm) and wait about 10 minutes. Take the liquid and reduce it in a sauce pan by half, adding 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to taste. Pour this over your plums.

Let everything cool, then spoon your plums and sauce over your panna cotta.

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Panna Cotta with Prickly Pear Confiture

Makes about 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of the vanilla panna cotta from above
  • 6 prickly pears (This could also be done with regular pears)
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 limes

Preparation:

Using a paring knife, carefully cut away the spiny skin of the prickly pears. Puree 5 of them in the blender and set aside. Dice the remaining pear and set aside. Combine the gelatin and three tablespoons of cold water. Heat the 1 cup of water and sugar until it boils, then add the prickly pear puree. Bring it to a boil again. Reduce heat and let the liquid reduce by 1/3. Add the chopped prickly pear and cook for five more minutes, then turn off the heat. Add the gelatin and put it in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Once it’s ready, spoon over your panna cotta and squeeze a little lime over the top.

All photos courtesy of the author except the lead photo by clada. 

Panna Cotta Three Ways: Mango with Pistachios, Roasted Plums, and Prickly Pear Confiture

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