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Classic Panna Cotta with Brandied Cherry Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: 6

Light and simple, panna cotta is all about texture. It should be a bit wobbly on the plate, and then melt quickly in your mouth. The sauce is inspired by the classic cherry cheesecake topping. The brandy is subtle but adds a bit of depth and sophistication.


For the sauce

  • 12 oz. (about 2-1/2 cups) fresh or frozen sweet cherries
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For the panna cotta

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch table salt

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 290
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 120
  • Fat (g): 14
  • Saturated Fat (g): 9
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4
  • Cholesterol (mg): 45
  • Sodium (mg): 100
  • Carbohydrates (g): 32
  • Fiber (g): 1
  • Sugar (g): 30
  • Protein (g): 5


Make the sauce

  • If using fresh cherries, pit and halve them. If using frozen, thaw, drain, and halve them.
  • In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together the brandy, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Stir in the cherries. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch with 1 tsp. water. Add to the cherry sauce and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let cool to room temperature. If the sauce thickens during cooling, stir in water, 1 tsp. at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency.

Make the panna cottas

  • Lightly spray six 6- to 8-oz. ramekins, small bowls, or pastry molds with cooking spray.
  • Put 1-1/2 cups of the half-and-half in a 2-quart saucepan and sprinkle with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to soften for about 5 minutes. Place the saucepan over low heat and whisk in the sugar until the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Rub a little between your fingers to check. (Avoid simmering, which destroys the gelatin’s thickening ability; if you see bubbles, remove from the heat and let it cool.)
  • Off the heat, whisk in the remaining 1-1/2 cups half-and-half, the vanilla and salt.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large measuring cup and divide among the prepared ramekins. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until set, 1 to 2 hours.
  • Serve the panna cottas in their ramekins, or unmold: Moisten six serving plates with a little warm water (this makes it easier to center the panna cottas). Loosen the edges of a panna cotta with a fingertip, then slowly invert it onto a plate. Gently jiggle the ramekin side to side until the panna cotta slips out. Lift the ramekin, reposition the panna cotta on the plate, if needed, and pat the plate dry. Serve, chilled for a firm panna cotta or at room temperature for a softer one, with the sauce.

Make Ahead Tips

The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

The panna cottas can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated, covered.


To make the panna cotta vegetarian, you can use vegan gelatin in place of regular gelatin.


Rate or Review

Reviews (1 review)

  • Allysong | 06/03/2016

    I've made this recipe several times now, and it's really delicious and comes out perfectly just as written. For a nice tang and a little extra richness, I replaced one half cup of half & half with one-half cup of sour cream. Full fat dairy works best, here, as it always does. Still the dessert is beautifully light and refreshing. You can do the brandied cherries or use any compote you like.

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