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Dress up your table with our new favorite summer desert

Warm weather is finally here, and that means summertime cookouts featuring spreads of foods and fruit-forward, refreshing desserts. While you may have a go-to dessert to make for summer parties and events, everyone loves fresh summer desserts and new dessert ideas. Summer is a great time for berries, and this dessert utilizes them in the form of a delicious raspberry sauce, but you can use strawberries or a combination of any berries that you like or have on hand. Panna cotta is one of those desserts that people think takes a lot of skill to make and will surely impress your friends and family. Don’t worry; we won’t tell them how easy it really is. Keep reading to find out how to make this delicious lemon panna cotta with raspberry sauce.


Panna cotta

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup sugar (or ¼ cup sugar substitute)
  • One vanilla bean split lengthwise and seeds scraped from the pod (or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract)
  • Two packets of plain powdered gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • Zest from one lemon

Raspberry sauce

  • 2 pints of fresh raspberries (or whatever berries you want to use)
  • ½ cup sugar (or ¼ cup sugar substitute)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (substitute the zest of an orange or some pure orange extract if you want an alcohol-free version)


Panna cotta

  1. Heat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let rest for five minutes.
  3. Stir the gelatin into the warm cream mixture until it is completely dissolved. Stir in lemon zest.
  4. Pour the mixture into molds, glasses, jars, or dishes and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Chill until very firm which will take a minimum of three hours (if you have six hours, that would be best).

Raspberry sauce

  1. Crush raspberries in a medium saucepan and then add sugar and water. Heat until boiling stirring occasionally.
  2. Add corn starch and boil rapidly for two minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and CAREFULLY pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Discard the solids left behind in the strainer.
  4. Stir in Grand Marnier and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until ready for use.

When ready to serve, pour raspberry sauce over panna cotta and garnish with mint leaves, fresh berries, more zest, etc.

Variations and ideas

Once you have the basic recipe and methods down, you can explore other variations of panna cotta. Here are some excellent ideas to try for your next gathering.

  • Make the panna cotta the same way as above, except leave out the lemon zest. Then, use peaches, sugar, Grand Marnier, and corn starch, much like you did above with the berries, to make a sauce. Garnish with blueberries and mint, and you have a peach variation.
  • Switch up the molds and ways that you serve this dessert. Use small jars on a try for larger parties so guests can grab one when they’re ready. On the other hand, it’s nice to unmold them and serve on a dish for a smaller dinner-party-type dessert.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, make a few different sauces and set out a variety of garnishes, and let people dress their own panna cottas for a little DIY fun.
  • Almond extract in place of the Grand Marnier in any of the sauces will be delicious and alcohol-free.
  • Though this dish is great in the summer since it’s best served cold, you can make a warm apple sauce with cinnamon and vanilla in the winter for a modern twist on warm apple pie and ice cream.
    • A warm brandy and eggnog sauce would also be delicious and crowd-pleasing for the adults.

Panna cotta is one of those desserts that really impresses people. If you’re trying to look like a rock star at the next event requiring you to bring a dish, this recipe is for you. With a few simple techniques and some fresh fruit, you’ll be well on your way to showing off your culinary skills without even trying hard.  Kids will love the texture of the dessert too so make sure you make some alcohol-free sauces just in case some ethanol sticks around.

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Kelly Kaliszewski
Kelly's work has appeared in blogs and on websites. When she's not writing, she is playing with her two dogs, cooking, or…
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