At Nonna’s Table | Recipe For Vanilla Panna Cotta With Strawberries

At Nonnas Table Recipe for Vanilla panna cotta with strawberries
Delicious Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberries, from At Nonna’s Table.

All the warmth and joy of an Italian family kitchen is present in Paola Bacchia’s cookbook, At Nonna’s Table.

Published by Smith Street Books (rrp $45), At Nonna’s Table is Paola’s ode to her mother Livia, whose warm and welcoming kitchen embraced the family right up until Livia’s passing in a Melbourne nursing home in 2020.

In many ways, the book is a story of migrant Australia, with the newly married Livia and her husband arriving here in 1950 to what Paola describes as a “food culture void”.

“Her first experience of this was the Bonegilla migrant camp, where she and my father spent the first month of their life together in Australia,” Paola writes in the introduction. “The stories of those miserable weeks and the mess hall continued to be told well into the 2000s.”

There was the inevitable longing to return home then eventually acceptance and even love for their new home, with family meals around the table playing a big part.

Livia was an inexperienced cook at the time of her marriage but through attending an Italian social club and delving into cookbooks that her brother brought from Italy, she expanded her repertoire and her reputation as a great cook producing simple but delicious food.

The author's mother, Livia, in 1947, a few years before she migrated to Australia.
Livia, in 1947, a few years before she migrated to Australia.

At Nonna’s Table contains 60 of Livia’s recipes, celebrating the best of Italian home cooking from soups and appetisers through to main courses, sides, desserts, pickles and preserves.

From the hearty Peperonata con melanzane e pomodori (Eggplant and Tomato Stew) to the crowd-pleasing Pollo Ripieno (Celebration Chicken) and the indulgent Mamma’s Orange Cake, the recipes highlight the fresh ingredients, bold flavours, and simple techniques that make Italian food so beloved.

The recipes are interspersed with heartfelt stories from Paola’s childhood and her mother’s life. Paola produces a popular blog, Italy On My Mind. Her Instagram account of the same name has a loyal following, so not surprisingly the photography is beautiful too.

At Nonna’s Table is Paola’s third book. She returns to Italy every year to expand her knowledge of Italian food and traditions. Her previous works include Adriatico (2018), Istria (2021) and Italian Street Food (2021), all published by Smith Street Books.

The recipe here sees the Panna Cotta paired with marinated strawberries, which Paola recalls as being so delicious she would eat them straight from the bowl.

“As a child, it fascinated me how the strawberries in juice that Mamma made tasted even more like strawberries than the fruit on its own,” she writes. “And her trick was so simple that she soon had me doing it – leaving the strawberries to marinate for a few hours in a mix of citrus juices with a dash of sugar.”

Buy your copy of  At Nonna’s Table: One Italian Family’s Recipes, Shared With Love from Australian-owned Booktopia.

At Nonnas Table Cover

Vanilla Panna Cotta With Strawberries

(Panna Cotta Con Le Fragole)

Serves 4

1 1/6 titanium gelatine leaves
500 ml (2 cups) pouring cream
70 g (2 ½ oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) strawberries
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
2 to 3 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar

You will need to make the panna cotta at least 6 hours before serving, to give it time to set.

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes to soften.

In a saucepan, slowly heat the cream, sugar and vanilla bean paste, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Heat until almost boiling – but don’t let the mixture boil. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Remove the gelatine leaves from the water and give them a gentle squeeze to remove the water. Drop them into the hot cream and stir until dissolved and completely smooth.

Allow the cream to cool for about 10 minutes, before carefully pouring it into four serving glasses, at least 150 ml (5 fl oz) in capacity. (Make sure the cream isn’t too hot, or the glasses may crack.) Cover all the glasses so nothing falls in them. Allow to cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge for at least 6 hours.

About 2 hours before serving, prepare the strawberries. Rinse and drain well, then remove the hulls. Cut in half, or into quarters if large, and place in a bowl. Strain the lemon and orange juice into the bowl. Add the caster sugar to taste, then stir and set aside to marinate.

Serve the panna cotta straight from the fridge, topped with as many strawberries as you like. 

Recipe and images from: At Nonna’s Table: One Italian Family’s Recipes, Shared With Love, by Paola Bacchia. Published by Smith Street Books and reproduced with the publisher’s permission.

**Enjoy many more delicious recipes from our Food Wine Travel files here.**

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like our post on Paola’s book, Adriatico, and her recipe for Lamb and Potato Bake.

Tags from the story

Leave a Reply