This exquisite panna cotta recipe is topped with a simple, elegant blackberry cabernet sauce that looks as romantic as it tastes. It’s a dessert that takes about 30 minutes to make and just a few hours to set, making it a perfectly effortless dinner party dessert that your guests will never forget.
The panna cotta recipe is very traditional but the sauce is luxuriously original, regal in color and so easy to make! You can serve it in glasses, like I’ve done, or you can make it in ramekin molds and flip them.
I have another panna cotta recipe with a strawberry rhubarb compote that’s also wonderful for summer, but rhubarb season goes so quickly, and blackberries are available all year long! If you prefer to serve the sauce as more of a compote like I made for that recipe, you’ll find the directions in the Common Questions below.
Why This Recipe is Special
It seriously takes about a half hour to make – The sauce takes about 20 minutes to reduce but the panna cotta, itself, is just a quick mix of ingredients, 5-7 minutes in the pot, popping it in the fridge and that’s it.
It’s easy elegance – Don’t you love a dessert that looks impressive that’s easy as pie to make? Wait a second… this is actually much easier than pie to make!
It can be made a whole day ahead of time – No need to fuss about in the kitchen whipping up dessert the day of the party. Make it all ahead of time and watch your guest’s eyes gleam when they they put their Prosecco bottles in the fridge and see what deliciousness awaits them!
blackberries – I suggest using firm, fresh blackberries rather than frozen. Frozen blackberries will become very mushy and not keep their shape. If you don’t mind that though, your sauce will still be delicious, just less textured.
cabernet – I used Cabernet Sauvignon in this recipe, but honestly, you can use any dry, full bodied red wine like Syrah, Pino Noir, Malbec or Tempranillo.
sugar – This is a pretty sweet dessert, so if you want it to be a little less sweet, include just 5 tablespoons instead of 6.
whole milk – To make it extra creamy, you can substitute half & half for milk instead.
heavy cream – Don’t substitute half & half for heavy cream. You need that extra creamy cream to make this recipe work.
gelatin – To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute with 1 teaspoon of agar agar.
vanilla extract – As always, use a quality “real” extract, and not imitation.
lemon – Use fresh lemon juice, not bottled.
How to Make This Panna Cotta Step by Step
To Make Panna Cotta
1. Add 1 tbsp. powdered gelatin (about 1 packet) to a small bowl with ¼ cup cold or warm (not hot) water. Stir and allow to dissolve and “bloom” for about a minute. If it has a few little bits of undissolved gelatin when finished, break them up a little but you don’t have to break them up entirely.
2. In a small-medium saucepan, add 1 cup heavy cream, 2 cups whole milk, 5 tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. real vanilla extract. Simmer and stir over MEDIUM heat for 4-5 minutes until you see a little steam rise, stirring occasionally.
3. Add gelatin and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Remove from heat.
4. Carefully divide panna cotta liquid into 8 glasses. Cover with cellophane and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. To learn how to add to molds instead of glasses, see the Helpful Tips below.
To Make Blackberry Cabernet Sauce
1. Add 12 oz. blackberries (about 2 standard packages) to a saucepan with 2 tbsp. Cabernet and 1 tbsp. white granulated sugar.
2. Simmer over MEDIUM-HIGH heat for 20 minutes, stirring throughout, but making sure not to break up berries.
3. You’ll know the sauce is ready when it’s reduced to a nice, thick syrup on the bottom. Refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.
4. Once cold, add 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice and 1 more tbsp. Cabernet. Stir and spoon on top of panna cotta.
It tastes like fresh, sweet, silky vanilla cream. It’s similar to flan or creme brûlée, but since it’s made without eggs, it’s a pudding, making its texture closer to a creamy jello than custard.
If you want to use vanilla bean, use ½ bean, split lengthwise with the seeds removed. Allow the vanilla bean and seeds to sit in the cream and milk over low heat for just 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the bean and seeds and follow directions from the beginning, skipping the extract.
If you want to make this sauce more of a compote than textured, simply break up the berries as you simmer them, and then push the sauce through a mesh strainer into a bowl to remove the seeds.
1. To make panna cotta in molds and flip onto plates instead of serving in glasses:
This recipe makes a softer panna cotta, that’s ideal for serving in glasses, but if you would like to serve them in a mold, you’ll wait to add 1 more teaspoon of gelatin to make it more solid.
Grease ramekins with a tiny amount of olive oil, pour in hot panna cotta liquid, and refrigerate. When they’ve set for 4 hours, place them in warm-hot water for about 15-20 seconds. Use a pairing knife to loosen them around the edges a bit, then flip over onto a plate.
2. Don’t stop stirring that sauce!
It takes a bit of care. Once liquid starts to release from the berries, you really do want to keep it moving with a spatula or it tends to bake to the bottom instead of nicely reducing, resulting in a burned flavor.
3. To prevent a “skin” from forming on top of the panna cotta:
After 1 hour of cooling, place cellophane over each glass. Covering them while still hot will cause too much condensation to collect until the cellophane, and make the top wet.
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Recipes to Pair with This Dessert
Panna Cotta with Blackberry Cabernet Sauce
- small mixing bowl
- sauce pan
- medium-size pot
- measuring spoons
- mixing spoon
- 6 glasses
For the Panna Cotta
- 1 tbsp. powdered gelatin
- ¼ cup water cold or warm
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 5 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. real vanilla extract
For the Blackberry Cabernet Sauce
- 12 oz. blackberries fresh
- 3 tbsp. cabernet
- 1 tbsp. white granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. lemon juice fresh
To Make Panna Cotta
- Add 1 tbsp. powdered gelatin (about 1 packet) to a small bowl with ¼ cup cold or warm (not hot) water. Stir and allow to dissolve and “bloom” for about 1 minute. If it has a few little bits of un-dissolved gelatin when finished, break them up a little but you don’t have break them up entirely.
- In a small-medium sauce pan, add 1 cup heavy cream, 2 cups whole milk, 5 tbsp. sugar and 2 tsp. real vanilla extract. Simmer and stir over MEDIUM heat for 4-5 minutes until you see a little steam rise, stirring occasionally.
- Add gelatin and stir until thoroughly dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Carefully divide panna cotta liquid into 6 glasses. Cover with cellophane and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To Make the Blackberry Cabernet Sauce
- Add 12 oz. blackberries (about 2 standard packages) to a sauce pan with 2 tbsp. Cabernet and 1 tbsp. white granulated sugar.
- Simmer over MEDIUM-HIGH heat for 20 minutes, stirring throughout, but making sure not to break up berries.
- You’ll know the sauce is ready when it’s reduced to a nice, thick syrup on the bottom. Refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes.
- Once cold, add 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice and 1 more tbsp. Cabernet. Stir and spoon on top of panna cotta.