Panna cotta. Doesn’t the name itself sound so pretty?
It makes me feel like I’m wearing an expensive black dress and sitting at a table with a white linen tablecloth….
But this dessert is not pretentious at all.
It’s true you could serve panna cotta as a beautifully plated dessert at a fancy dinner party to impress your guests, but it’s equally as acceptable to eat while you watch reruns in your pajamas at two in the morning.
An eggless, gluten-free custard that’s sensually silky and smooth, panna cotta is like the adult version of pudding. Desserts like this invite an elaborate presentation. So if you make it, and you’re in the mood, you may as well comply.
The quick and easy choice is to eat the panna cotta directly from the cup it sets in – just garnish and dig your spoon right in for instant enjoyment.
The other option requires a little more panache. Once you loosen the custard from the cup, you can invert it onto a plate, and decorate with as much flair as you desire.
With a presentation like this, the dessert is just as lovely to see as it is to say.
And the taste?
Spoon a bit into your mouth, the silky chocolate cream blending with bits of salted pistachios and tart oranges on your tongue, a mixture of salty and sweet flavors… and you’ll be hooked.Print
Try this creamy chocolate panna cotta with tart oranges and salty pistachios. It’s an elaborate dessert that takes minimal effort to make.
- Canola oil or cooking spray
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1-ounce packet (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored powdered gelatin
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup roughly chopped chocolate (milk or semi-sweet)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
- 2 oranges, peels removed and segmented
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped salted pistachios
- Very lightly grease 8 small ramekins with canola oil or cooking spray. Place in a tray and set aside.
- Pour milk into a medium bowl. Evenly sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let stand at room temperature until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine 2 cups heavy whipping cream and the sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves, stirring frequently.
- Bring the cream mixture to a boil, and remove from heat. Add the chocolate and the orange zest, if using. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the cream.
- Pour the warm chocolate mixture into the milk and gelatin mixture. Whisk until everything is completely combined.
- Carefully pour the liquid into the prepared ramekins, leaving about 1/4 inch of space on top. Let cool for 10 minutes at room temperature before covering and placing in the refrigerator. Set for at least 6 hours, or overnight. The custard should not jiggle when you lightly shake it.
- When ready to serve, whip the remaining cup of heavy cream and set aside. Run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the cups to loosen the panna cotta. Turn out onto plates and garnish with the whipped cream, oranges, and pistachios.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Category: Custard
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: dessert, panna cotta, chocolate, orange, pistachio
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather and Prep
Grease eight small cups or ramekins with canola oil or cooking spray. Place on a tray and set aside.
Measure out the milk, gelatin, heavy whipping cream, and granulated sugar.
With a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board, roughly chop the pistachios and the chocolate. For a sweeter, milder flavor, use milk chocolate. For a more intense, deeper flavor, use a semi-sweet or bittersweet option.
Zest the oranges to get one teaspoon of zest. Remove the peel and segment. Need a little help with this step? Learn how to supreme, which is a useful technique that easily removes all unwanted parts of the citrus fruit.
Step 2 – Bloom the Gelatin
Pour the milk into a medium-sized heatproof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the milk, and let stand to soften as you prepare the next steps.
Step 3 – Heat the Cream and Sugar
Combine the heavy whipping cream and sugar together in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat.
Step 4 – Add the Chocolate
Add the chocolate and the orange zest, if using. Whisk together until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the cream.
I like the addition of the zest, as it provides a subtle flavor that accompanies the orange garnish.
Step 5 – Mix Everything Together
Pour the warm chocolate mixture into the milk and gelatin mixture. Whisk until everything is completely combined.
Step 6 – Pour into Cups and Set
Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins, leaving about 1/4 inch of space on top.
Let cool for ten minutes at room temperature before covering with a lid or plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator.
It’s important to let them cool slightly before covering – if you cover when they are still hot, condensation will develop on the bottom of the lids. The water can drop onto the top of the panna cotta if the tray is moved. It won’t affect the taste, but the droplets will leave “stains” behind on top – and you don’t want that!
Set in the refrigerator for at least six hours, or overnight. The mixture will no longer jiggle when shaken slightly.
Step 7 – Garnish and Serve
Whip the remaining cup of whipping cream until fluffy. Garnish each panna cotta with some cream, a couple orange segments, and the chopped pistachios.
Alternately, run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the cups to loosen the custard. Turn out onto individual plates. Garnish and serve.
Make Something Fancy. You Deserve It.
You’ve earned a special dessert tonight.
Maybe you’re throwing an elaborate party, because you just got a promotion at work, or you’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday.
Or maybe you’re home (finally!) after a busy day, lounging on the couch, hungry for a sweet treat.
No matter what the occasion is, no matter if the attire is black tie or sweatpants, you deserve something delicious.
And boy, this panna cotta is perfect, especially with this flavorful blend of silky chocolate, bright oranges, and salty pistachios.
It’s the kind of dessert that combines beauty with flavor, and that leaves you feeling pleasantly satisfied, and not uncomfortably stuffed, when you slowly savor the very last spoonful.
Craving even more? We have an endless selection of other desserts to pique your appetite! Custards like flan and creme brulee are addictive, as I’m sure you’d agree. And you’ll be equally as pleased with our other panna cotta recipe, a vanilla counterpart served with honey and figs.
And if chocolate is your thing, check out these super tasty recipes:
How would you serve this dessert? Can you think of any other flavor combinations that would pair well with chocolate? Maybe strawberries and mint, or bananas and peanuts! Give us all of your delicious ideas in the comments below, and remember to rate the recipe!
Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on February 4, 2009. Last updated: October 25, 2020 at 20:28 pm. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.