This creamy, delicious limoncello panna cotta is the perfect make ahead dessert for your next party! This is the perfect springtime lemon recipe, with a kick!
I love this recipe. Panna Cotta is such an easy and classic dessert. Plus you can make it ahead of time and it’s pretty hard to mess up, which are two of my favorite things when cooking.
Panna Cotta means cooked cream in Italian. It’s a cream, sugar, with gelatin to set it. It is similar to a pudding or creme brulee, although instead of cornstarch or eggs to thicken, this uses cream, sugar, and gelatin to thicken and set the dessert.
- Gelatin: this is a flavorless thickening agent. This recipe uses powdered gelatin and can be found here.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: You can substitute up to half the cream with whole milk.
- Sugar: This recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar but you can add more or less to your liking.
- Limoncello: You can also make this with other types of liquors from butterscotch schnapps to Chambord.
Making Limoncello Panna Cotta
Step 1: Bloom and Heat Gelatin
To make the recipe you sprinkle the gelatin over 1 cup of cream and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This is called blooming and it allows the gelatin to absorb the liquid.
Step 2: Add sugar, liquor and more cream
After 10 minutes, heat the mixture over medium-high heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes. Then, turn down the heat, add the sugar, and stir until dissolved, and whisk in the alcohol and remaining cream.
Step 3: Cooling in a Water Bath and Straining (optional)
At this point there is an optional step of cooling down the mixture by pouring into into a bowl over an ice water bath and whisking for 5-10 minutes until the mixture starts to slightly thicken.
You can see from the pictures below, before you start whisking it is a thin cream mixture, and after whisking in the ice water bath, it starts to thicken and slightly coat the sides of the bowl. This will help to prevent the mixture from separating while it sets. You must be careful when doing this to not let the mixture cool and thicken too much or it will be hard to pour into the serving containers. You want to cool it to about 50-55 ℉.
Step 4: Strain and Chill
If you panna cotta mixture seems to have any lumps or undissolved gelatin, strain through a mesh strainer to remove. If it’s smooth, you can pour directly into your serving containers or prepared tart shell. I recommend putting them on a baking pan so you can easily move them around. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge at least 4 hour or overnight to set.
Tips and Tricks
I tested a number of different methods variations for this recipe. Here are my tips and tricks for making your own Limoncello Panna Cotta:
- Try the Limoncello first! Limoncello flavor and alcohol content can very a lot between brands. Some have a very strong taste and other are more mild. This can affect the final flavor of your panna cotta.
- If you want a lower alcohol content Panna Cotta you can substitute the limoncello for cream on a one to one basis, while adding more sugar. So if you want only ¾ cup of alcohol, you can replace the remaining ¼ with cream while adding one (1) extra tbsp of sugar for every ¼ cup limoncello you replace in the recipe.
- For a healthier Panna Cotta, you can substitute up to half of the cream (up to 1 ½ cups) with whole milk. It will not be as creamy and delicious as if you use all cream.
Making Ahead and Storing
Limoncello panna cotta is a great make ahead dessert. You can make this dessert up to 24 hours in advance and you can also freeze the set panna cotta for up to a month, making sure they are very tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn. Let them defrost in the fridge a few hours before serving.
Looking for More Springtime Lemon Recipes? Check these out!
Limoncello Panna Cotta
- 3/4 cup limoncello
- 2 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin
- 3 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream divided into 1 cup and 2 1/4 cups
- 4 tbsp sugar
- fresh berries optional, for topping
- raspberry coulis optional, for topping
- Pour 1 cup of the heavy cream into a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let it sit and bloom for 10 minutes.
- If using an ice water bath, fill a large bowl or sink with ice water while the gelatin is blooming.
- After 10 minutes, heat the cream and gelatin mixture on medium high heat and stir constantly until the gelatin is dissolved, about 2-3 minutes (about 135 ℉ on an instant read thermometer if being precise)
- Turn down the heat and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve.
- Slowly pour the remaining cream and limoncello into the saucepan, while stirring.
- If using a ice water bath, transfer the panna cotta to a bowl and set it in the prepared ice water bath.
- Slowly hand whisk or stir the mixture until it starts to slightly thicken and lowers in temperate, about 5-10 minutes. It should be around 50-55 degrees if using a thermometer.
- Strain the mixture to remove any lumps, then divide evenly into desired serving dishes or tarts. See notes if using ramekins.
- Cover each serving container with plastic wrap. You can put all the containers on a baking pan or sheet so they’re easy to move around and then cover the entire sheet with plastic wrap.
- Let chill in the fridge at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Top with more limoncello or berry coulis before serving.
- Try the Limoncello first! Limoncello flavor and alcohol content can very a lot between brands. Some have a very strong taste and other are more mild.
- If you less alcohol you can substitute the limoncello for cream on a one to one basis, while adding more sugar. So if you want only 1/2 cup of alcohol, you can replace the remaining ¼ with cream while adding one (1) extra tbsp of sugar for every ¼ cup limoncello you replace in the recipe.
- For a healthier panna cotta, you can substitute up to half of the cream (up to 1 ½ cups) with whole milk.
- If using an ice water bath, don’t let it thicken too much or else it will be hard to pour into containers.
- Panna cotta is freezer friendly! After they’ve set in the fridge, you can wrap them very tightly in plastic wrap and put in the freeze for up to a month. Let defrost in the fridge before serving.
- If using ramekins: be sure to spray with a non-stick cooking spray before adding the panna cotta. Unmold by setting the bottom in a bowl of hot or boiling water and running a knife around the edge to loosen. Then slip onto a serving plate and add desired toppings.