Panna Cotta and Summer Berry Sauce

Simple Italian dessert is rich and decadent without being heavy and overly sweet.

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Panna Cotta and Summer Berry Sauce. (Cristen Clark / Special to Agweek)

Panna cotta is a simple Italian dessert that many people have never heard of, yet it happens to be one of my all-time favorites. It’s literal translation means “cooked cream,” and is rich and decadent without being heavy and overly sweet. This recipe was a blue ribbon entry at the Iowa State Fair in my early contesting years, so it holds a special place in my cookbook.

The foundation of this creamy, tangy recipe rests on two basic ingredients: full-fat sour cream and heavy whipping cream. If there is one thing you will ALWAYS find in my fridge, rest assured it is sour cream in some form. Its use transitions from savory cooking to sugar laden baking with ease.

You’ll love the tang that the sour cream imparts to this dessert, and the texture of this panna cotta is sublime. I like to serve it with fresh fruits, chocolate and honey, in any combination! One thing is for certain, this make-ahead dessert always gets rave reviews. Make the panna cotta up to three days in advance and it will keep in the refrigerator just fine.

This is a fantastic dessert option for baby and wedding showers. Fill a plastic dessert shot-style glass with panna cotta and chill. Then garnish the top of the individual desserts in a variety of ways!

To serve this dessert in an interesting way tilt the serving glasses and pour the panna cotta mixture inside to chill at an angle. Then add berry sauce or chocolate ganache and serve. The end result is a visually appealing geometric design!


When making the summer berry sauce it is important to cool the hot mixture before folding in remaining berries so the fresh berries keep their structure and freshness.


Sour Cream Panna Cotta

  • 1 packet Knox Gelatin Unflavored (2 1/4 teaspoons gelatin)
  • 3 tablespoons water, cold
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, full-fat sour cream
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Berry Sauce

  • 3 cups assorted berries, fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Sour Cream Panna Cotta

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin on cold water. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the cream, the sour cream and vanilla, set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat once mixture simmers. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and whisk to dissolve. Strain hot cream/sugar/gelatin mixture into the cold cream/yogurt/vanilla mixture and stir to combine. Pour into glasses. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours until firm. Serve with berry syrup and fresh berries.

Summer Berry Sauce

Combine half of the berries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat, continue boiling for 5 minutes, crushing a few berries while stirring consistently. Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir well. Cool to warm. Fold in remaining berries. Spoon on top of panna cotta before serving.

Some notes: A few other toppings I like include fresh berries and honey, strawberries and chocolate sauce, and fresh blackberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar (reduced in a saucepan until somewhat thick). If you want a more subtly textured panna cotta, only use 1 1/2 teaspoons of the gelatin. I like mine a bit firm, and the recipe reflects that.


Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at or at

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