Hailing from the Northern Italian regions of Val d’Aosta and Piedmont, classic panna cotta is a combination of sugar and cream or milk (or both!). True to its name (which is Italian for “cooked cream”), the dessert is made by heating the ivory base, adding gelatin (we prefer sheets over powder for the satiny texture they produce), pouring the mixture into round containers to set, and releasing the jelled result. Panna cotta pulls off a miraculous texture that’s both effortlessly light and mouth-caressingly rich.
In Gastronomy of Italy, Anna del Conte writes that while the dessert is occasionally flavored with peach eau-de-vie or paired with fresh fruit, the traditional, unadulterated version prevails throughout the boot. But Beard House chefs have broken the panna cotta mold: Dean James Max and his crew riffed on the s’more with a smoked chocolate panna cotta topped with brûléed marshmallow fluff; Kuldeep Singh served a vermicelli panna cotta with mango sorbet as the finale of his contemporary Indian menu; and Philippe Chin flavored his own savory version with edamame, interspersing the infused cream with thin layers of black truffle.