Popular throughout Italy, panna cotta (literally, “cooked cream”) is a delicate dessert with a mild, creamy flavor. Often paired with seasonal fruit, the silky custard is particularly good served with a brightly flavored sweet-tart rhubarb compote.
Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Roasted Rhubarb
For the panna cotta:
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) heavy cream
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 envelope (1/4 oz./7 g) unflavored gelatin
For the compote:
1 lb. (500 g) rhubarb, trimmed and thinly sliced (4 to 5 cups)
1 cup (8 oz./250 g) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
To make the panna cotta, in a large saucepan, combine the cream and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean half into the cream mixture and add the pod. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is almost at a simmer, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Pour 3 Tbs. water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for 5 minutes.
Uncover the cream and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Gently whisk in the gelatin mixture, then remove from the heat. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Pour the panna cotta into 8 dessert cups or into a decorative bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.
Meanwhile, make the rhubarb compote: Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C). In a baking dish, combine the rhubarb, sugar and vanilla bean half. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until the rhubarb is very tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Discard the vanilla bean.
Unmold the panna cotta onto small dessert plates, spoon a little of the rhubarb compote onto each serving and serve. Serves 8.