An easy strawberry panna cotta recipe with pistachio, inspired by an afternoon tour of the Roman town of Susa, Italy just across the French Alps.
Before I get to the recipe for Pistachio Strawberry Panna Cotta, let me tell you how I got there first.
Continuing to follow the sun this summer, we stopped for breath in the French Alps. Walking in the clean, mountain air was the best answer in between ice creams and macarons. We also found driving hypnotic: following previous marks on the road left by red-spotted or yellow-tunic supporters during past Tour de France mountain races.
As we were perched in Montgenèvre, Italy was just next door. Italian temptation rang like the tinkling of neighbouring church bells at noon and so we popped over for a sweet few hours. We headed East on the stunning Turin road for the Roman town of Susa in Piedmont, a peaceful sleepy town definitely worth visiting.
Macarons in Susa, Italy
This ‘pasticceria‘ pastry shop was our first sweet welcome, although it was closed for a long lunch (and obviously siesta) when we arrived. You could tell from the window that their macarons were selling as much as their traditional baci di dama (lit: ladies’ kisses) biscuits.
Susa’s streets gravitate towards the Porta Savoia gate, where the town centre’s piazza is marked by the 11th Century San Giusto Cathedral. The gate is also considered by the locals as quite modern, as it was rebuilt during the Middle Ages!
It’s hard to believe that these monuments are still standing since their Roman predecessors. Below left is the Augustan Arch, dating back to 8 BC. On the right, the remains of the Roman aqueduct, slightly younger, clocking in at 375 AD.
It’s mind-blowing just thinking of the number of gladiators who would have been behind these bars, awaiting their turn to run out into the Roman Ampitheatre to a roar of excited spectators, hungry for action.
After testing the perfect acoustics of the Ampitheatre pretending to be an opera singer, it was time to make a sharp exit since I was embarrassing hubby and the girls. Running after them, it didn’t take long to discover they were already choosing ice creams from the piazza’s La Bottega del Gelate.
I also tried to go posh, Pierre Hermé style, and pick a chocolate and passion fruit combination. The passion fruit was rather synthetic but the chocolate was good (although I wanted Baci – chocolate ice cream with hazelnut like Perigina’s ‘kiss’ chocolates). Our overall winner was voted as pistachio as there must have been real Italian pistachios in there.
Best Sicilian Pistachios in France
As we checked out the local grocery stores for pistachios, we found the best deal and quality at our local Carrefour supermarket, full of interesting Italian produce.
Quickly cleaning out their stock of Sicilian pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try them back home: liberally added to weekend brioche, gluten free chocolate pistachio brownies – or pistachio and chocolate-pistachio macarons from my book, Mad About Macarons.
It’s not just the flavour but the pistachio colouring (see this post about it) has to look realistic, don’t you think?
What is Panna Cotta?
Panna Cotta is a chilled Italian dessert, meaning literally a ‘Cooked Cream’. That’s basically it. The cream is heated and infused with vanilla or some kind of flavour and a little sugar. It’s then chilled and set with the help of gelatine. Some desserts include a set coulis or fruit purée, like this one made of strawberries.
Mini Strawberry Panna Cottas – Perfect Party Desserts
It didn’t take long before I made a few panna cottas for a party last weekend. Rose and griotte cherry panna cottas were on the menu but above all, these simple pistachio and strawberry panna cotta desserts. I’d also mixed some pistachio panna cottas with griotte cherry coulis.
Serve With Pistachio Macarons!
Needless to add that panna cottas go deliciously well with macarons! I completely forgot about this packaging bought in a baking supply shop in Rouen. It’s handy to transport your macarons since the little tower centrepiece has a cover that you can easily clip around them.
Strawberry Panna Cotta with Pistachio
- 3 @2g gelatine sheets
- 400 ml (14fl oz) whipping cream (30% fat) (French crème fleurette)*
- 100 ml (3.5fl oz) whole milk
- 4 tbsp caster sugar (superfine)
- 1 tbsp pistachio paste *see NOTES
- 3 drops pistachio or almond extract
- 1 @2g gelatine leaf
- 300 g (10oz) strawberries
- 50 g (1.75oz) caster sugar (superfine)
- Soak the 3 gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes.
- Heat the cream, milk, sugar and pistachio paste in a saucepan. Once heated through, squeeze the gelatine of excess water and stir it into the warm cream until melted. Add the pistachio extract then pour into serving glasses.
- Cool for 15 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Just before the creams are set, prepare the coulis. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes. Whizz together the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor. Microwave 3 tbsp on high for 30 seconds, and melt in the gelatine (squeezed of excess water).
- Set aside to cool and when the creams are set, pour on the coulis and continue to chill in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes.