In the mood to whip up a bowl of summer? Look no further than this excellent panna cotta. Flavorful, decadent and refreshing all at once, it’s also visually stunning, making it an ideal way to close out a dinner party. The brainchild of chef Angela Tamura of Pèppoli Restaurant, a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner at California’s Pebble Beach Resorts, which turns 100 this year, the dish layers unexpected but straightforward techniques over good-quality grocery-store ingredients.
The effect is showstopping: Creamy, tangy, basil-and-buttermilk panna cotta is topped with a drizzle of orange-infused olive oil and a scoop or two of sorbet made from roasted berries and balsamic vinegar.
Perhaps best of all, the recipe is eminently flexible. “Don’t feel committed to have to do every part of it if you’re just getting into it for the first time,” Tamura advises. “Just pick one thing and go from there.” And if you like the idea of making sorbet but aren’t feeling the berries, Tamura notes that apricots or peaches would be a great substitute.
Cooking the panna cotta base does require a touch of finesse. The infusion of basil stems is meant to give the dessert the delicate suggestion of fresh basil flavor, but if you overcook it, you’ll get an overpowering, perfumy effect from the basil—and once it’s overcooked, your options are essentially to eat weirdly basily panna cotta or start from scratch.
Luckily, cooking it correctly only requires noticing two key signals: steam rising from the pot and the appearance of a few bubbles around the edges. This tells you it’s time to take the cream off the heat. To dispense with the guesswork, you can also use an instant-read thermometer, which will register 180° F when the cream is just hot enough.
Other than that? “Take your time with it,” Tamura encourages. After all, dessert should be fun.
Pairing Tip: Why Sparkling Rosé Works with this Dish
For more tips on how to approach pairing this dish with wine, recommended bottlings and notes on chef Angela Tamura’s inspiration, read the companion article, "Panna Cotta With Sparkling Rosé," in the June 30, 2019, issue, via our online archives or by ordering a digital edition (Zinio or Google Play) or a back issue of the print magazine. For even more wine-pairing options, WineSpectator.com members can find other recently rated rosé sparklers in our Wine Ratings Search.
Buttermilk-Basil Panna Cotta with Roasted Berry–Balsamic Sorbet and Orange Oil
Recipe courtesy of chef Angela Tamura and tested by Wine Spectator’s Rori Kotch.
- 3 oranges
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 ounces organic mixed berries, the riper the better (or frozen berries if fresh are unavailable)
- Scant 1 cup granulated sugar (divided use)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar of Modena
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 1/4 cups buttermilk (divided use)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
- 3 cups heavy cream
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 bunch basil, stems and leaves reserved separately
1. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully peel the skin from 2 of the oranges, avoiding the bitter white pith. Reserve the orange fruit for another use. Combine the olive oil and orange peels in a small saucepot. Heat gently on low, without letting the oil smoke, swirling occasionally. When the oil is fragrant and less viscous, about 12 to 15 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool. Store in a cool place, with or without the peels, overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Toss the berries with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the vinegar, and spread on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Break the cinnamon stick in half and add it to the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast the berries for 15 minutes. Strawberries will deepen in color and shrivel a bit; blueberries will plump up and some may burst; raspberries may collapse slightly. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
3. Discard the cinnamon stick and puree the berries in a blender or food processor. Add 1 1/4 cups of the buttermilk, as well as the sour cream, vanilla and sea salt, and process until well-blended. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth-lined colander. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer churned sorbet to a loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 2 to 4 hours, until hardened but not icy.
4. Place 1/4 cup buttermilk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Whisk to combine.
5. Zest half of the remaining orange, reserving the rest of the orange for another use. Place the cream, the remaining scant 3/4 cup sugar, orange zest, lemon zest and basil stems in a heavy-bottomed stainless-steel saucepot. Heat the mixture gently over medium-low, stirring with a rubber spatula. Do not allow the cream to simmer. When the cream is just scalded—steaming and showing a few bubbles around the edges, with an instant-read thermometer registering 180° F—remove from the heat and add the buttermilk-gelatin mixture, stirring to combine. Let cool for 5 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander. Add the remaining 3/4 cup buttermilk and stir to combine. Pour into 6 to 8 chilled medium-size bowls. Cover and chill overnight, until set.
6. When ready to serve, top each panna cotta with a scoop or two of the balsamic–mixed berry sorbet, a drizzle of the extra-virgin orange oil, a few of the reserved basil leaves and, if desired, any combination of the following: fresh raspberries, crumbled biscotti and aged balsamic vinegar. Serves 6 to 8.