We have the most glorious roses on our property in Umbria that are at their peak late spring and early summer. These roses are so fragrant that I try and fill the house with them each week so that we can enjoy the amazing scent floating throughout our home. Along with simply enjoying the beauty of our roses, I try and use them in my cooking from time to time. I made a wonderful Rose Petal Syrup one year that my grandkids drizzled over their gelato, and I recently made some Rose & Vanilla Bean Cookies that we thoroughly enjoyed. Thinking about these glorious roses on our Italian property, I decided to make some rose flavored panna cotta. Panna cotta, translated as “cooked cream”, is an Italian dessert of lightly sweetened cream thickened with gelatin. It is a simple dessert to make, but you need to get the combination of cream and gelatin just right to get the perfect consistency. The cream used in panna cotta is also often flavored with such ingredients as coffee, chocolate, fruit, or other flavorings. Since I am presently stateside and have no access to organic, health grade roses, I decided to use rose water to flavor my panna cotta. Rose water is a uniquely flavored water made by steeping rose petals in water. In fact, it is a by-product of the production of rose oil for use in perfume. Rose water has an intense rose flavor and is commonly used in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
I made this creamy, elegant dessert a couple of times until I got the exact ingredient amounts perfected for my taste. I suggest using the recipe as written the first time you make it, and then if you think you would like a more intense rose flavor, add a little more rose water the next time you make it. I used food-grade dried rose petals in my decoration, and although my husband didn’t mind the texture, I didn’t love it, so the second time I left out the rose petals and used just finely chopped pistachios as my garnish. This dessert would be fantastic for any spring menu and would look lovely on the table for Easter. The rose flavored dessert itself is very elegant and unique, but I decided to pair it with some thickened raspberry sauce that I placed in the bottom of each glass so that you can scoop out a little as you enjoy the pudding. You can add the syrup as I did, or simply serve the panna cotta on its own with some fresh berries on top. Often panna cotta is made in small molds or ramekins although I prefer to use clear, small glasses so that when I layer my dessert, you can see the different layers. I did use a couple of drops of red food coloring to make my pudding more attractive in appearance, but feel free to eliminate the coloring if you prefer. I also strained my raspberry sauce in a sieve to keep the texture smooth to match the pudding.
Deborah Mele Revised 2020
- 3 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 2 Vanilla Pods
- 2 1/2 Sheets Gelatin
- 2 Teaspoons Rose Water
- 2 Drops Red Food Coloring (Optional)
- 1 1/2 Cups Frozen Raspberries
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/3 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
- 1/3 Cup Finely Chopped Blanched, Unsalted Pistachio Nuts
- To make the raspberry sauce, place the berries, sugar and lemon in a pot and bring to a boil.
- Cook the sauce over medium heat until thickened. (Your sauce should be like loose jam)
- Pour the sauce into six clear glasses, to a depth of about 3/4 of an inch.
- Place the glasses on a tray, and refrigerate until needed.
- To make the panna cotta, soak the gelatin in a bowl with cold water for 5 minutes.
- Cut the vanilla beans in half and scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife.
- Put the cream, vanilla bean seeds, and sugar in a pot, and heat on medium.
- Simmer gently for 5 minutes.
- Take the pot from the heat, and stir in the rose water.
- Remove the gelatin from the water, and whisk it into the hot cream mixture.
- If using the food coloring stir in just enough to turn the pudding a pale pink.
- Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.
- Set the bowl into a larger bowl of ice water.
- Stir the pudding as it cools to room temperature.
- Pour the mixture over the raspberry sauce in the glasses, dividing it up evenly.
- Refrigerate for at least six hours or overnight.
- Sprinkle the top of each pudding with the chopped pistachios before serving.