Panna cotta might translate literally into “cooked cream”, but if I were running the universe, it would mean something more like “cream-love’s paradise”. Rich but also delicate, it can be served as-is in Zen-like simplicity, or enhanced with other dairy-friendly flavors.
Panna cotta hails from Piedmont, Italy, which in and of itself is interesting. Italians, historically, weren’t well known for fresh dairy products. That’s because cows are expensive and Italians have always been dirt-poor. Even cheese was a luxury item for most of their history. But then Piedmont is tucked all the way up North, smack in the middle of temperate grazing country, a stone’s throw from the home of the most notorious dairy hounds on the planet: the French. Need I say more?
What I love about panna cotta is that it’s the only dessert I know that’s designed to focus your attention solely on the white, fat-laden perfection that is cream. Not chilled cream and peaches, not whipped cream and mousse au chocolat, but cream. So forget your panna cotta bread puddings, throw aside your blueberry crepes in panna cotta sauce, and try a nice simple Old World indulgence on for size