Cook the Book: Black Pepper Panna Cotta with Figs

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

One of may favorite things about dining at Lupa, Mario Batali's Roman osteria, is the decidedly understated dessert list. Head chef Cruz Goler has put together a small list of desserts that finish his menu in an elegant and simple manner. They aren't desserts that will push you over the edge into a food coma, just a clean and slightly sweet way to finish your meal. This Black Pepper Panna Cotta with Figs has been on the menu at Lupa for as long as I can remember. The fruit garnish changes seasonally but the black pepper panna cotta is always consistently light and ethereal.

Having recently enjoyed a late winter version of Goler's panna cotta, I was looking forward to see how the home version adapted from Coco would translate.

When making panna cotta in the past I've found that the ratio of gelatin to cream seems to be the biggest issue. Too much gelatin and your panna cotta ends up overly firm, like a cream-based jello; not enough and you are left with a tasty but not very attractive puddle of sweetened cream. Goler's recipe is on the softer, more custardy side, which I prefer over the firmer version. The black pepper lends a very slight spice and a wonderful visual element, especially mixed with the tiny, flavorful specks of vanilla bean.

Since figs are a few months away I substituted tiny Champagne grapes in the compote topping but what seasonal fruit wouldn't be wonderful when combined with a bit of sugar and Prosecco?

Win Coco

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Coco to give away this week.

Cook the Book: Black Pepper Panna Cotta with Figs

About This Recipe

Yield:7 to 8


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 vanilla bean
  • One 1/4 ounce package powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 fresh figs
  • 1 cup Prosecco
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. 1

    Toast the black pepper in a pot. Add the cream, sugar, and vanilla bean and bring it to a simmer.

  2. 2

    While the mixture is simmering, "bloom" the gelatin by mixing it with ice water until soft. Drain off the excess water and dissolve into the hot cream mixture. Once dissolved, remove from heat and add milk. Place in an ice bath and cool until mixture is thick enough to suspend the black pepper and seeds from the vanilla bean.

  3. 3

    Remove the vanilla bean and pour into 2-ounce molds. Leave to set for 24 hours.

  4. 4

    Fig Compote

  5. 5

    Stem and quarter the figs and reserve. Bring the Prosecco and sugar to a boil in a pot to make a simple syrup. While still hot, pour the syrup over figs, steep for 10 minutes, then let cool.

  6. 6

    Remove the panna cotta from molds and place onto a plate, putting the fig compote on top of it and around it.


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