Panna Cotta with Fresh Berry Sauce

Italy has always made a big impression on me.  Its majestic history, scenery and food are so imposing and hard to ignore.  So, last year Adrian and I finally ventured to Italy together.  It was our first time together to the boot-shaped peninsula and this time we decided to take Rome and Tuscany by storm.  In a nutshell, it was amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed every second in the Eternal City, Florence and the surroundings, but we also truly relished the best panna cotta in the world!

Over the years, I’ve sampled numerous variations of this classic Italian dessert across America and even in Romania, but the one that let me hungry for more was the panna cotta in Italy.  I don’t really know why; maybe because the Italians invented it, or because it’s been done, tweaked and improved, and found seemingly on every restaurant’s dessert menu.  Most likely, because it’s delicious!  But don’t panic.  You don’t have to fly across the pond in search of a great panna cotta.  This Panna Cotta with Fresh Berry Sauce can easily be a second best and will graciously do the trick!  
In all honesty, I’ve always had an affinity for this Italian staple but somehow never dared to make it myself.  Perhaps the wobbly pudding engrained in me the idea of a highly difficult dessert.  As it turns out, I was wrong all along.  Making panna cotta is nothing short of effortless!  And this Panna Cotta is here to prove it.  It’s so unbelievably easy to whip up, no baking required, and you’ll be done in roughly 30 minutes, sauce included.  The tough part is the waiting for the panna cotta to set.  You’ll impatiently wonder around until you can finally dig in and engulf this fabulous dessert.  But once set, you’ll have a stunning sweet treat gleaming in deliciousness.  
This panna cotta is simple, summery, and purely sublime!  Refreshing and beautiful will also look gorgeous on your Fourth of July table.  The contrast between the silky smooth, cottony pudding, bursting with delicate vanilla perfume, and the sweetly tart, crimson saucy berries is wonderful.  The flavors are luxurious and transcending, and the faintly thick, delightful richness of the cream shines through.  Of course, you can swap the vanilla for rosewater or lavender or any other flavors you desire to infuse the cream mixture.  The possibilities are endless and the result magical.  Simply put – a glorious dessert that will make your summer even sunnier! 
Panna Cotta with Fresh Berry Sauce
Adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis
Makes: 6 servings
Ingredients for the Panna Cotta:
·         1 cup whole milk
·         1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
·         Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
·         3 cups heavy cream
·         1/3 cup honey
·         1 Tablespoon sugar
·         Pinch of salt
Ingredients for the Fresh Berry Sauce:
·         2 cups assorted fresh berries
·         1 ½ Tablespoon sugar
Instructions for the Panna Cotta:
Place the milk in a heavy, small saucepan.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let stand for 5-7 minutes to soften the gelatin.  Stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla seeds and stir well to combine.  Add the heavy cream, honey, sugar, and salt and stir until the honey and sugar dissolve, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Pour the mixture into 6 glasses, dividing equally.  Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.  
Instructions for the Fresh Berry Sauce:
Place the berries in a small saucepan and sprinkle with sugar.  Heat up the berries over medium-low heat until juicy and soft and mash some of them with a fork.  Continue to stir until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.  Let it cool. 
Spoon the sauce atop the panna cotta and serve. 

Poftă Bună! (Bon Appétit!)

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