Posts Tagged 'Italian'

White Chocolate Panna Cotta

I have been wracking my brain for weeks trying to remember a lovely, light dessert that I made a few years ago for some friends. I remembered that it was like individual pudding molds, sitting in some sort of fruit puree. Then I remembered that it was lemony, and I did a search of lemon desserts. And there it was: panna cotta. Panna cotta, from the Italian “cooked cream” is an Italian dessert made by simmering together milk, cream and sugar, adding some gelatin, and letting it cool until set. It is often served with fruit, either cooked or raw. And it can be very low in fat and remarkably easy to make.

I was trying to think of a Valentine’s Day dessert, so instead of the lemon panna cotta, I made one with white chocolate. You can decorate these any way you want: with candy hearts
panna cotta with hearts
gel icing,
panna cotta with gel

or the way I liked it best, with sugared strawberries
panna cotta with strawberries
White Chocolate Panna Cotta

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
2 cups fat-free half-and-half, divided
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped (See NOTE)
1 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
panna cotta ingredients

Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup fat free half-and-half in a small saucepan; let stand 1 to 2 minutes.
panna cotta gelatin
Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat 3 minutes or until gelatin dissolves. Watch so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat. Add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts. I found I had to stir quite vigorously to get it to melt…maybe chopped chocolate would have worked better.
panna cotta stirring
Gradually stir in remaining 1 cup half-and-half, condensed milk, and vanilla. Pour 1/2 cup custard into each of 6 stemmed glasses or 6-ounce custard cups.
panna cotta in bowls

Cover and chill 8 hours or until ready to serve.  Turn out on a plate, or eat it straight from the bowl or glass. Makes 6 servings at 4.3 grams of fat/serving

NOTE: I happened to have white chocolate chips on hand, so I used them.  They were hard to melt into the half and half. I think it would be better to use a high quality white chocolate bar, partly because the chopped chocolate might melt better, but also because the flavor of the white chocolate dominates this dessert, and probably high quality white chocolate would be better. If you use the chips, you might want to chop them up a bit.


Lasagna with Prosciutto

A while ago I made 227 blintzes for the bar mitzvah of my friend’s twin grandsons. Because I was worried I would run out of cottage cheese, I bought 10 pounds of cottage cheese so I could make the blintzes in one big production line in a single day, and then freeze them for baking the day of the event. At the end, I had five pounds of cottage cheese left. Now I like cottage cheese, eat it for breakfast with fruit, etc. But there is a limited amount one can eat before it goes bad – and it doesn’t freeze well.

I went searching for recipes that would use up cottage cheese. There were a lot of cheesecakes, but I really didn’t want to make a lot of sweets. I found this recipe at Cooking Light. I couldn’t find fat free pasta sauce that they recommended, so I used sauce with 1 gram of fat/serving – but I used non-fat cottage cheese instead of the 1% they recommended and egg substitute instead of an egg.

Lasagna with Prosciutto

2 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
1 (16-ounce) carton non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup grated fresh Romano cheese, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons  dried basil
1/2 teaspoon  crushed red pepper
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 (26-ounce) bottle fat-free or low-fat tomato-basil pasta sauce
Cooking spray
12 cooked lasagna noodles
4 ounces chopped prosciutto or ham
4 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place cottage cheese and garlic in food processor. Process 2 minutes or until smooth. Add cream cheese, 2 tablespoons Romano, basil, pepper, and egg substitute. Process until well-blended.

Spread 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over the pasta sauce; top with 1 cup cheese mixture, 1/3 cup prosciutto, and 3/4 cup pasta sauce.

Repeat the layers two times, ending with noodles. Spread remaining pasta sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Romano and mozzarella.


Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let lasagna stand 5 minutes.  Makes 9 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

There is an additional story about this lasagna. I made it on the weekend before Thanksgiving, fully intending to eat it for an easy dinner every evening before I left early Wednesday morning for Baltimore and Thanksgiving with my daughter. When I woke up Monday morning, my refrigerator had died an ignominious death in the night. I hastily moved items that were still frozen from the top freezer to the big freezer in my pantry. The refrigerator area itself was reasonably empty because I was going to leave town. I had to get to work, so I just boxed up the refrigerated goodies that could be saved and, because it was very cold out, I tossed them onto the back deck in the snow. I figured I could find a better place for them after I got home from work. I came home grouchy, tired and very hungry – looking forward to a nice hot big piece of lasagna. But the sliding doors to the deck had frozen shut. No amount of rapping, prying, or cursing could get it open. There was glass between me and my lasagna! I was like one of those animals that they train to push a button to move the glass panel to get to its food – only I wasn’t smart enough to move the glass panel. Miserably, I found something else to eat and went to bed. (Actually, I was laughing hysterically at my ridiculous predicament by this time.) I finally got the door open the next day using an electric space heater for several hours – rescued my lasagna and other now frozen goods, tossed it all in the big freezer for better or worse, and headed out of town.

Rescued Lasagna.



I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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