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Grana Padano

Why Panna Cotta and Tiramisu are already Italian cooking traditions

Panna Cotta by Francesco Elmi
Giovanna Marson, Chennai (India) based Italian Chef, writes on culture, history, tradition and homologation in recipes and in the kitchen. Here, also you can find her recipe of Panna Cotta without gelatine.

Chef Giovanna Marson
Chef Giovanna Marson
The topic of popular culture, what is it and what it means, should be tied to the history of the people that then codify their tradition.By tradition we understand the set of habits and customs, along with values, that each generation transmits to the next. Stated very simply, each population has its own nutritional history that is tied to the geography and the nutritional production of its land. One’s place of birth is an underlying factor concerning the accumulation of nutritional memory. That which becomes collective, therefore, cultural memory is the basis of tradition. Historical times have determined that tradition becomes changed, renovated, aged or even distorted. What happens in the cuisines is, on one hand, a continual renovation and rediscovery and, on the other, a line connected with our past but also connected with the past of others.

Panna Cotta
Every recipe has its previously delineated history. Sometimes it has been passed on orally but more often it has been copied from recipe book to recipe book. Don’t forget that the first books that existed (after the Bible) were exclusively recipe books. And why is that? Passing down an artisan’s craft is one of the most difficult things there is. It’s not only a question of technique; it’s a question of materials and the knowledge related to such materials. So, in the case of the cuisine, it’s nutritional knowledge; of understanding which products are edible and which are of fundamental importance. In past centuries refrigerators didn’t exist. Understanding the freshness of a product was basic knowledge, related to the health and well being of people. Cooks were the best paid amongst artisans and craft masters, due to all of the symbolic value related to food.

The history of technique has changed the prospective of tradition. The kitchen has followed the course of technique and, at the same time, all the innovation in transportation has distorted our sense of terroir.
Thus, when we speak of tradition, we should think of it as a centenary line, if not a millenary one. In the case of some culinary trends, there is little sense in talking of tradition; although some dishes have obtained enormous success in next to no time, this does not mean that they are ‘traditional,’ even though it now appears that 50 years are sufficient historical time to accept something as having become traditional.

Therefore, we can propose that Panna cotta and Tiramisu are dishes to be placed in the tradition of Italian cooking.

Giovanna Marson

Giovanna’s Panna Cotta without gelatine – The Recipe

Giovanna´s Panna Cotta
Giovanna´s Panna Cotta
Giovanna Marson hosted the eighth step of La Vita è Dolce in the Prego Restaurant, in the Taj Coromandel Hotel, Chennai. It was the week dedicated to Panna Cotta and Giovanna prepared a Lemon Pannacotta with passion fruit and blueberry sauce with tablets of lingue di gatto (see recipe below) according to the authentic recipe, as in the step by step video by Francesco Elmi. However Giovanna has also a recipe of Panna Cotta without gelatine or fish glue (see below), which, according to a school of thought, could have been not rare in the past in the Italian Regions – Piedmont, Val d’Aosta - where Panna Cotta originated. “I didn’t find any written source”, says Giovanna, “however a very old aunt of mine passed on to me this recipe”.


whole milk 1/2 lt
fresh cream 1/2 lt
sugar 125 gr
acacia honey 125 gr
egg whites 250 gr
vanilla ½ a pod
cinnamon ½ a stick
peel of 1 orange
peel of 1 lemon


1. Mix the milk, cream, sugar, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, orange peel and lemon peel, and bring it slowly to a boil while stirring continuously.
2. As soon as it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and let rest for approximately one hour.
3. Filter and add the lightly beaten egg whites.
4. Butter a baking mould or small moulds and bake à bain-marie at 160° C for approximately one hour and 45 minutes. When removed from the oven, it will still be rather liquid but, while cooling, it will gain the right consistency.
5. Remove from the mould when very cold and serve decorated with a coffee and chocolate sauce made by boiling approximately three or four spoons of water, a level spoon of butter, three squares of melted chocolate and a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee.
Otherwise, fruit, chocolate or caramel sauce.

Giovanna’s Lemon Pannacotta with passion fruit and blueberry sauce with tablets of lingue di gatto

Ingredients (10 portions):

Fresh Cream 0.75 lt
Milk 0.25 lt
Sugar 175 gr
Vanilla 1 pod
Lemon rind 50 gr
Lemon juice 0.01 ml
Blueberries whole 10 gr
Grain sugar 50 gr
Gelatin 15 gr


1. Boil the milk with the sugar and vanilla pod, let it infuse and remove the vanilla pod.
2. Soak the gelatin in cold water and leave it till it swells up.
3. Melt the gelatin in a baine marie.
4. Add the gelatin to the cream and mix it well.
5. Warm the lemon juice in a pan and allow to cool.
6. In a pan cook the blueberry and the sugar till the sugar gets cooked. Leave it aside to cool.
7. Mix the lemon juice and the lemon rind to the cream and put it in a ice bath.
8. Allow to chill while stirng it continously.
9. When the mixture starts to thicken pour into the lined mould.
10. Pour the blueberry mixture in the center of the pannacotta mixture.
11. Fill the remaining mould with pannacotta.
12. Chill in the refrigerator.
13. Demould and serve. Garnish with passion fruit coulis and blueberry coulis.
14. Decorate with strips of Lingue di gatto.

Lingue di gatto


Butter 188 gr
Icing sugar 313 gr
Egg Whites 188 gr
Flour 188 gr


1. Preheat oven to about 130 degrees Celsius.
2. In a mixing bowl, add butter and icing sugar.
3. Whip the mixture to a creamy and fluffy consistency.
4. Slowly add egg whites to the mixture and continue mixing until fully amalgamated.
5. Then slowly add the sifted flour and mix well until fluffy and uniform in texture.
6. Pour parts of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and with the help of a spatula cut into the shape you desire.
7. Bake for approximately 6 minutes or until golden.
8. Cut into the shape you desire.