Strawberry Panna Cotta: Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson!

Dreamy, creamy no-bake dessert sweetened with juicy strawberries. It’s actually very simple, contains no eggs, and is sugar-free if desired. 

Strawberry Panna Cotta | TeaspoonOfSpice.com

Despite references to the contrary, it’s fiction that Thomas Jefferson invented ice cream. However, it is fact that he was one of the first to write down the recipe for another cool, creamy treat: Panna cotta – sweetened by the juiciest strawberries.

Today is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. And we thought it would be fun to celebrate with one of the many recipes actually written down over 200 years ago by our first foodie president.

While Jefferson never actually cooked himself, his devotion to delicious food was cultivated during his time in France. He served as Minister to the Court of Louis XVI in Paris from 1784 to 1788 and upon returning home, his ‘carry-on luggage’ consisted of: 86 crates of kitchen supplies, ingredients and grape vines to plant a vineyard!

Dreamy, creamy (healthy!) Strawberry Panna Cotta | TeaspoonOfSpice.com

During his time at Monticello and the White House, he interviewed his cooks and wrote down many of their recipes – adding to those he’d gathered from French cooks. These recipes were given to his granddaughters who passed them down to future generations.

Recently, I received the booklet Recipes From the Personal Cookbook of Thomas Jefferson from my Aunt Bonnie. It’s a cookbook of Jefferson’s recipes edited in 1949 into ‘modern’ terms by Fiske Kimball. It’s a fascinating read and includes the following – each recipe written in one long paragraph:

  • Soup a la Julienne – All veggies are julienned instead of just plain-Jane chopped
  • Pumpkin Soup
  • Fricassee of Chicken
  • Pancakes
  • Brandied Peaches
  • South Carolina Rice Pudding – With 5 egg yolks and just a pinch of sugar; apparently eggs were more abundant than sugar.
  • Bohemian Cream – which I’m copying here as written:

Take any preferred stewed fruit, such as apricots, strawberries or peaches, and pass them through a sieve. There should be one cupful. Soak 1 tablespoonful of gelatin in ½ cup of water for five minutes and dissolve in ½ cup boiling water. Add to the fruit. Whip 1 pint of cream and add gradually to fruit pulp. Add pinch of salt. Turn into a mould and let set on ice until firm.

easy panna cotta recipe

I adapted the Bohemian Cream recipe into more ‘modern’ terms – including the name, but I believe the dreamy, creamy – and super easy spring treat would still be approved by President Jefferson – and many of his granddaughters – who apparently were founding foodies as well.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Foodie President!

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Strawberry Panna Cotta

Dreamy, creamy no-bake dessert sweetened with juicy strawberries. Panna cotta is actually very simple, contains no eggs, and is sugar-free if desired.

  • Yield: 6 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 cup pureed strawberries (from about 1 cup fresh berries or thawed from frozen berries)
  • 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoon) plain gelatin
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Pinch of salt
  • 23 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions

  1. Chill large glass bowl and metal beaters from electric mixer in the freezer; these will be used to whip cream. Very lightly spray 9-inch glass pie plate (or 6 ramekins) with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. If desired, press puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds. (I skipped this step – but if serving for a fancy brunch, do this.)
  3. Place 1/4 cup water in a medium bowl and sprinkle with gelatin; set aside for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup boiling water to gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Stir in strawberry puree; set aside.
  4. Remove bowl and beaters from freezer; pour in heavy cream and whip cream until soft peaks form. Add Greek yogurt, salt and sugar if desired. Beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in strawberry mixture and pour into pie plate (or ramekins). Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.
  5. To unmold, run knife around sides of pie plate; place pie plate in very hot water for about 10 seconds. Place flat serving platter over top of pie plate and flip pie plate over onto serving platter, shaking gently to release. If it doesn’t release, place back in hot water for 3 seconds and try again.

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We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

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