Panna Cotta with Grappa & Summer Fruits

This is a wonderful, extremely rich dessert from the River Café in London. Instead of the custard cups I used a 6-cup mold. When using grappa, it is important to buy a quality product. Grappa is a colorless, high-alcohol Italian drink made from the grape skins and seeds left in the wine press.
July 13, 2010


Pour 3-3/4 cups of the cream into a sauce pan, add the vanilla beans and lemon zest and bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by onethird.

Remove the cooked lemon zest and set aside. Remove the vanilla beans and scrape the softened insides into the cream.

Sprinkle the gelatin over the milk in a small saucepan and soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir over low heat until the gelatin dissolves completely. Add to boiled cream mixture.

Whip the remaining 1-1/4 cups cream with the powdered sugar until it holds its shape. Fold into the cooled cooked cream, and add the grappa.

Place a piece of cooked lemon zest in each of eight (6-ounce) custard cups, and pour in the cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Run a knife inside each cup, then turn out onto a dessert plate and serve with fresh fruit. If you desire, pour a tablespoon of grappa over the top.

Justin’s Wine Recommendations:

To cook with, we suggest Antonelli San Marco Grappa di Sagrantino ($34.99). For those looking to sip on an alternative to Grappa while enjoying this dessert, we suggest Boeri Alfonso Ribota Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2009 – Costigliole d’Asti, Piedmont ($16.99). This is the perfect dessert wine, a luscious perfume of spring flowers and honeyed melons/apricots jumps from the glass. Lightly sweet, with frothy effervescence, this light white (only 5.5% alcohol) is fresh and possesses delicate flavors that explode on the palate.

Words by Justin Ficken / Recipe excerpted from The Café Cook Book: Italian Recipes from London’s River Café


  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • Thinly pared zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2/3 cup cold milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup grappa, plus extra to serve
  • 1-1/2 pint fresh fruit of your choice
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