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My Easter menu: chocolate panna cotta

I planned to post this recipe a few days ago, to allow you plenty of time to shop for all the ingredients and seal your perfect Easter menu with an elegant dessert. But you know I’m not good in planning, so here I am, a few hours before Easter, with a delicate chocolate panna cotta with fresh strawberries. As promised, though, the ingredients are simple, seasonal and probably you might have them already in your pantry, so roll up your sleeves and get cooking.

For days I dreamt about it: the silky texture, the sleek presentation, the comforting taste. We close every traditional Tuscan Easter meal with a slice of sportellina, an Easter sweet bread flavoured with aniseed, and a few pieces of chocolate egg. So it had to be chocolate and it had to be strawberries. Finally juicy strawberries grown on the warmer Tuscan coast are hitting the market and I began introducing them in pies, jams and breakfast bowls.

chocolate panna cotta

Chocolate panna cotta with strawberries and tonka bean

There’s just one ingredient which is slightly less common in this panna cotta, tonka bean.

When I opened my blog I was suddenly introduced to a whole array of unusual ingredients for a Tuscan palate: matcha green tea, long pepper, curries, tonka bean… I could spot these spices in every foreign and Italian blog, then all of a sudden a new ingredient would take their place and become the new trend. Now it is all lattes and avo on toast on Instagram and social media, but for some time it was matcha desserts, or cupcakes, or cake pops.

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Tonka bean belongs to that time, when I was exploring a new world, when every day I was discovering a new taste. If matcha left no trace in my pantry, tonka bean conquered my heart and I still love to pair it with chocolate and coffee. So if you happen to have a forgotten tonka bean in your pantry use it for this chocolate panna cotta, otherwise flavour the cream with your favourite spice, such as vanilla bean, cinnamon or cardamom.

Enjoy this glorious time with friend, family and good food. And now, the recipe…

Chocolate panna cotta

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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8


For the chocolate panna cotta

  • 500 ml 16,89 fl oz - 2 cups + 1 3/4 tablespoons of fresh cream
  • 100 ml 3,38 fl oz - 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons of fresh whole milk
  • 1 to nka bean
  • 50 g of sugar, 1,76 oz - 4 tablespoons
  • 15 g of gelatin sheets, 0,53 oz
  • 150 g of dark chocolate, 5,29 oz - 1 1/3 bar

For the strawberries

  • 200 g of fresh strawberries, 7,05 oz - 1 1/3 cup
  • 25 g of sugar, 2 tablespoons
  • Fresh mint leaves
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  • Soak the gelatin sheet in a bowl with cold water for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour cream and milk in a saucepan, add sugar and a whole tonka been. Warm cream and milk until they begin to simmer, then remove from the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes, then remove the tonka bean.
  • Melt the finely chopped chocolate in a bain-marie and, once melted, stir it into the cream. Do not skip this passage, to have a smooth chocolate panna cotta first melt the chocolate then add it to the cream.
  • Wring gently the gelatine to remove excess water and dissolve it into the chocolate and cream.
  • Pour the chocolate and cream into single serving ramekins or silicon moulds - be sure to rinse them Leave the panna cotta in the fridge for a few hours or, better, until the next day.
  • About an hour before serving the panna cotta, chop the strawberries, sprinkle with sugar and add a few chopped fresh mint leaves. Set aside so that they will produce a thick syrup.
  • To unmould the panna cotta pass a knife on the edges and gently tip the bottom of your mould or immerse the moulds for a few seconds into hot water before unmoulding.
  • Serve the panna cotta with a few tablespoons of strawberries and drizzle with the strawberry syrup.


* For the conversion of gelatine check here and here.
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chocolate panna cotta

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  • Read more about tonka bean hereThe taste of the tonka bean is linked strongly to its scent. “Scents,” I should say, as the tonka bean has many at once. I register the aromas of vanilla, cherry, almond, and something spicy—a bit like cinnamon. When served cold—say, in tonka bean ice cream—the taste is like a vanilla caramel with dark honey. When warm, perhaps shaved over scallops, it moves toward spiced vanilla. Additionally, the aroma of the tonka bean shavings (it’s almost always shaved) is so affecting that it seems like an actual taste in the way that opium, which has no taste in the traditional sense, “tastes” like its rich, flowery smoke.
  • My friend Giuseppina in Goult loves tonka bean, read her recipe for a Semifreddo with amaretti and tonka beans’ syrup. When  we visited her last summer she made us a chocolate and almond milk jelly doused in tonka bean syrup. I can still smell it and taste it.

Happy Easter everyone!

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. This chocolate panna cotta is so special just like pudding. I like the combination of chocolate and strawberry together.. Thanks for sharingt this recipe. I cant wait to try this on coming weekend.

  2. Good Evening Jules,
    How lucky we are that you thought of us. It just made me feel so good.
    I have had a recent short visit to hospital and I’m tired in bed just now but never too tired
    To think about food! Your menu is perfect wish I could whisk you here to make it for me.
    I enjoyed the most simple meal this evening that you wouldn’t believe. I had been in bed
    A while resting but the dirty oven wan nagging me so spent until 10pm trying to make it
    New again…..electric. In the end I left some for tomorrow took a shower and made
    Ciabatta toast, soaked it with olive oil and added our seasonal tomatoes……just delicious. I love simple food.
    I’m almost 80 and my husband is 84, our grandson has always lived with us since his mother gave him to us because she couldn’t look after him. He’s given us a delightful
    And funny life but now at age 34 it’s time for him to find a partner and leave…..he says
    He won’t leave us.
    Here as in most places in the world our lives have changed dramatically. My friends
    Have taken on new lives and work. My closest one whom I love dearly has left here in Melbourne to move across Australia to Western Australia . She loves it, she’s married to
    An Asian man whom I live too so they are missed but she never lets a day go by without
    Texting and sharing both funny and things she’s discovered. I have a few other younger friends but they are busy with either family and work.
    Something I wasn’t going to share us my sadness but I don’t think you’ll mind. My
    Beautiful husband and I will have been married for 60 years next March….I’m hoping he’ll be ok to make it. He has a disease i had never heard – Lewy bodies dementia which
    You might recall that Robin Williams the actor and comedian had. Harold my husband is
    Doing well just very changed and I hope to make him live for his life.
    I promised to take him back at least to Italy and Luca but we’ll see if the the travel people will allow it. He loves it so much and I’ve surrounded him with books and ideas and reminders of the things we have seen and visited. He loves art especially the
    Sculpture of the wrestler in the same place as my favourite in Rome Livia’s room. It’s one of the city museums.
    Well I hope I didn’t waste your time but I love reading from you so I will say goodnight
    And wish you and your family a cosy evening in front of your fuel stove after a beautiful
    Walk in Autumn leaves.
    My kindest wishes,
    Merle Karpin, Melbourne

    1. Dear Merle, I read your comment as I would have read a handwritten letter. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, sharing glimpses of your life with me, considering how busy you are. You are such a kind, special woman. I really hope you and your husband will make it to Italy next year for your anniversary, it will be a pleasure to meet you two and cook with you and share some fantastic food with you. Take care! a big hug – Giulia

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