What Is Panna Cotta? History Of The Italian Dessert


raspberry panna cotta in a glass

What is Panna Cotta? Panna Cotta is one of the most famous desserts in Italy, served all across the country in hotels and restaurants. It is the Italian word for ‘cooked cream’ and refers to a dessert that consists of sweet cream coagulated with gelatin, then set together in a mold and finally served cold a day after.

Chefs usually aromatize the dish with flavorings like coffee, vanilla etc., making it one of the absolute favorites of Italians. But where did this amazing delicacy come from? What is its history? Let’s find out. 

Origins of Panna Cotta Dessert 

Panna Cotta is a well-known delicacy famous throughout the Italian mainland and the whole world but it didn’t enter the mainstream until the 1960s. This means that it came down to us through traditional means, staying out of the limelight. 

Most of the historians argue that it is a traditional dessert, which originated from Piedmont, a region in Northern Italy. Some weak claims from a section of food lovers also suggest that some Hungarian woman from the early 1900s came up with the desserts but it’s very unlikely and the story is largely unverified. 

A dictionary from 1879 mentions latte inglese, which translates to ‘English Milk’. This latte inglese was made in the same way as the modern-day Panna Cotta is: cooked cream in gelatin and then molding it. Another way for making latte inglese is through egg yolks, according to some sources. 

 Some other authors cite sources according to which, the traditional finishing or flavor has always been the peach eau-de-vie and that the historically accurate way of presenting the dish does not include having sauce or any other garnishes. 

Panna Cotta’s History 

Panna Cotta is quite simply one of those foods, which have remained out of the cookbooks or the history for most of their time. This could be due to a lot of reasons. Maybe the people back in the day didn’t like it as much, or it stayed confined in a small region. 

Or maybe it was one of the peasant dishes that never made it to the mainstream. No matter how much its origins are blurred, the people love it now and nothing can change that. The traditional foods of the region list by the Italian Region of Piedmont from the early 2000s mentions Panna Cotta. 

Its recipe consists of cream, sugar, milk, rum, marsala, gelatin and vanilla. When this mixture is ready, it is then poured into a mold to give it a shape along with a caramel finishing. The mixture of ingredients has to be placed inside a refrigerator for a few hours to set it properly and is then served with decorative items like sauce, fresh fruits or spices. 

This delicacy became widely known and fashionable in the US through the immense cultural influence of Italian Americans in the country’s popular and culinary culture. There was no stopping it from there and now it’s popular all across the globe from the east to the west in restaurants and hotel menus.

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