:: itchefs-GVCI ::

Grana Padano

Panna Cotta

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.

Panna Cotta for dessert, if you have angels for dinner (VIDEO)


The most easily found and best-known Italian dessert worldwide is at the same time among the most delicate. So delicate that, if you have angels coming for dinner, Panna Cotta is the dolce to serve. But how many people know what an authentic Panna Cotta is – one such as that which Francesco Elmi presents in the above step-by-step video-recipe? After Semifreddo all’Italiana, celebrated at Piazza Italia, Beijing last week, Panna Cotta is the eighth step of La Vita è Dolce.

Here is a recipe of Panna Cotta as suggested by Fabbri.

Last week, from July 30th through August 5th, Beijing Piazza Italia’s executive chef, Vincenzo Pezzilli, and chef de cuisine, Maurizio Lai, represented China in “La Vita è Dolce.” Piazza Italia prepared a warm welcome for all guests taking part in this first ever world event, trying to satisfy their sweet-toothedness with a selection of Beijing’s most authentic Italian desserts. During the week, Orange Semifreddo, a tart topped with a frozen orange-infused mousse, was the main protagonist at the Boscolo Restaurant in Piazza Italia on the third floor. The recipe of this delicious, authentic Italian dessert can be found just below.
Vincenzo Pezzilli
Chef Vincenzo Pezzilli

Tiramisu, instead was the hero of the Voglia di Vino Restaurant on the second floor of Piazza Italia and Zeppole di San Giuseppe were savoured at the Dolce e Salato Restaurant on the first floor. On Saturday, August 1st 2009, a Semifreddo Cooking Demonstration was held at the Boscolo Etoile Academy, and on the same day, in the afternoon, selected guests learned the lost art of preparing the authentic Italian Semifreddo. Chefs Pezzilli and Lay organized a La Vita è Dolce special Saturday night as well, with a tantalizing Italian Dinner, including Grilled Scallop with Porcini Mushroom in Truffle Oil, Octopus Amatriciana, Porchetta-Style Stuffed Cornish Hen, and of course the Orange Semifreddo.

Semifreddo all’arancia e cioccolato bianco con croccante all’uvetta e mandorle e salsa alla vaniglia

Orange and white chocolate semifreddo with sultana and almond crunch and vanilla sauce

Orange Semifreddo
Orange Semifreddo by Chef Pezzilli

For orange semifreddo

Pastry custard 300gr
Orange peel 20gr
Italian meringue 265gr
Cream 435 gr

Heat 100 grams of the pastry custard in the microwave oven with the orange peel, grated; then mix very well and let steep for some minutes. Next add the rest of the cold cream, the Italian meringue and the whipped cream.

For white chocolate semifreddo

Egg yolks 100gr
Granulated sugar 80gr
Honey 15gr
White chocolate 60gr
Italian meringue 100gr
Fresh cream 270ml
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and honey. Add the white chocolate, melted, the Italian meringue and the whipped cream.

For vanilla sauce

Milk 700ml
Cream 300ml
Cane sugar 80gr
Granulated sugar 120gr
Egg yolks 300gr
Rice starch 10gr
Vanilla pods 12gr
Bring the milk and cream to a boil with the vanilla pods, pulp removed. Whip the egg yolks with the granulated sugar, the pulp from the vanilla pods and the cane sugar, add the rice starch, then pour the mixture into the boiling milk and cream. Maintain at 85° C.

For the sultana and almond crunch

Sultanas 50gr
Almonds 50gr
Granulated sugar 200gr
Melt the sugar without letting it darken, then add the almonds and the sultanas.

For the pulled sugar

Melt some sugar in a pot and let it cool on silpat.
With gloves, pull and twist the cooling sugar to form spirals, circles or whatever else.

A passage to India for La Vita è Dolce

Giovanna Marson
Chef Giovanna Marson
Panna Cotta in India, at Prego, in the Taj Coromandel Hotel, Chennai. The hostess is Giovanna Marson, a GVCI (Group of Italian Virtual Chefs) veteran and a member of the Board. Giovanna is widely known as La Piccola Cuoca (the little chef) and in her spare time runs a very strong-minded blog in Italia.
Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta according to Giovanna
Born in Milan, she comes from a family of chefs (she shares this profession with her grandparents and her uncle).
It is in that same city where she worked in some very famous restaurants such as Corso Como 10: a restaurant but also a book shop and an art gallery. Rasheeda Bhagat, an Indian journalist, wrote about Giovanna: “Her English might not be too good, but her creativity, talent and passion for the ‘haute cuisine’ are divine. In fact, in terms of languages, Giovanna is fluent in Japanese and she has a degree in Oriental Studies. Thanks to this background she has worked in Japan, Hong Kong and Shangai.

Hermant Oberoy
Hermant Oberoi
Later on, Hermant Oberoi, Executive Grand Chef of the Taj Majal Hotel chain, convoked Giovanna to work at Chennai’s Prego, because he liked the style of Italian Cuisine she does: a kind of haute cuisine that is traditional but contemporary, which includes such dishes as the Eggplant Ravioli with Cherry Tomato, the classic Lasagna alla Bolognese, the Spiced Chicken Stew with black olives or the Homemade Fettuccine. Giovanna is well known for her wide cultural refinement, her charismatic writing, her plain, direct (well, sometimes blunt) way of speaking and, above all, for her honesty.

Shiva Temple
Shiva Temple, Chennai, India

Delicate, almost frail, so sexy (and counterfeit)

Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta is perhaps the most delicate dessert of all,” recently wrote Nigel Slater, an English cook, writer and BBC TV celebrity. This generally acclaimed worldwide icon of Italian pasticceria has perhaps the simplest and most foolproof recipe of all: it's made by the brief simmering of fresh cream, milk and sugar, with a vanilla pod, then set with a leaf of gelatine. “It doesn't sound like much – until you eat a spoonful,” once warned Anna del Conte, another English food commentator. At its most perfect, Panna Cotta is the kind of dessert “you might consider if angels were coming to dinner,” to quote Slater again.
Nigel Slater
Nigel Slater
Nothing is certain about the origins of Panna Cotta, which in English means ‘cooked cream.’ A 2002 decree, issued by the Government of the Region of Piedmont, in Northern Italy, officially places Panna Cotta among the region’s traditional products; however, it doesn’t give any clue about its origin, excepting an attachment, which states that “it has been said that Panna Cotta was born in the Langhe, invented by a woman of Hungarian origin, at the beginning of the 20th century.” The dessert is, however, very common also in the traditional culinary customs of the bordering Region of Valle d’Aosta. Some authors have perceived an affinity between Panna Cotta and Pezzo di Gelo or ‘piece of ice,’ a recipe given by Pellegrino Artusi in his The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating well. However Artusi's recipe doesn’t have either cream or milk; it has water and egg yolks.
Panna Cotta
The Piedmont decree stresses that Panna Cotta is a dolce a cucchiaio, literally a ‘spoon desert’, and insists on the fact that it must be “delicate”, explaining word by word; “it’s a delicate white pudding.” In fact, a perfect Panna Cotta should look almost frail, having just the strength to keep its shape as it is turned out of its mould. English food writer, Jay Rayner, found a very colourful way of describing it; “done properly Panna Cotta should wobble like a woman’s breasts”. This delicateness is undoubtedly the defining characteristic of the dessert, together with its basic ingredients, including fish glue that has been slowly replaced by gelatine, agar-agar and other thickening agents.
Jay Rayner
Jay Rayner
In its original form, Panna Cotta is aromatised only with vanilla, but some Piedmont recipes (including the one attached to the Piedmont decree mentioned above) contain rum or Marsala wine added to the cream and sugar. The presentation must also be simple and natural. Traditionally in Piedmont it was eaten plain or, in restaurants, it was accompanied with berries or small fruits, as the legendary La Panna Cotta con i Piccoli Frutti made for over four decades by Gian Bovio at the Bovio Restaurant, in La Morra, Cuneo, Piedmont. Anna del Conte, well aware of these traditions, used to serve her Panna Cotta with only a leave of scented geranium.

Egg Nog Vegan Pannacotta
Egg Nog Vegan Panna Cotta
Anna del Conte
Anna del Conte
The success of Panna Cotta around the world has been astonishing perhaps due to the easiness of its preparation and, at a restaurant level, due to the relevant economic margin a restaurateur can earn. Panna Cotta’s increasing popularity has been proportional to the unlimited number of variations, aromatisation and decorations of it. Media, books, chefs come up daily with novelties, creative, or simply weird, interpretations. To some extent, today, Panna Cotta is a kind of technique –not only in pastry– that has little or nothing to do with the authentic one which the name was originally used for. So, in this case, as in that of many other dishes or desserts, the pastry chef should be free to be creative and innovative by using the Panna Cotta technique, but should stop giving it this name when there’s nothing left of the original dish. That’s the case of the frankstein so-called Nog Pannacotta (with vegan eggnog, dark brown sugar, agar-agar, soy yogurt and vanilla extract) that recently appeared in a blog or the countless industrial forms of panna cotta on the market worldwide.
PS Panna Cotta is so widely spread in Great Britain that many food critics (including Nigel Slater) stated in various occasions that there you can find this dessert made as in Turin or Piedmont, if not better.

Rosario Scarpato


Panna Cotta: The Authentic Recipe by Francesco Elmi

Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta is one of the most delicate desserts in italian pasticceria however a simple one to prepare. Maybe that's why it's been so imitated. This is the only classic authentic recipe by Francesco Elmi.

Photo 1
Photo 1


Fresh cream 800gr
Milk 200gr
Gelatine 12gr
Sugar 190gr
Cold water (for the gelatine)
1 pod of vanilla
(Photo 1)


Submerge the gelatine in a bowl of cold water (photo 2).
Put the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in a sauce pan (photo 3) and bring it to 92° C, stirring continuously with a whisk (photo 4).
Photo 2
Photo 2
Photo 3
Photo 3
Photo 4
Photo 4

Remove from heat and add the gelatine well squeezed out and dried (photo 5).
Mix well to melt the gelatine in order that the ingredients blend, then filter (photo 6).
Pour the panna cotta into single portion moulds (photo 7) and chill in the fridge for at least four hours (photo 8).
Photo 5
Photo 5
Photo 6
Photo 6
Photo 7
Photo 7

Plate Presentation

Whipped cream
Flakes of white chocolate
Passion fruit
Melted chocolate sauce
Mint leaves

10 servings
Photo 8
Photo 8

Recipes Editor and La Vita è Dolce Worldwide Tour Coordinator: Elena Ruocco.

Photos: Paolo Della Corte- FOOD REPUBLIC