Recipe: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Apricot Gelée

Panna Cotta, an Italian dessert of silky, sweetened cream set with gelatin, is all at once simple, classic and elegant.  It is, at its best, subtle, not overly sweet, and the perfect way to end a meal on a light and refreshing note.
Panna cotta comes together quickly and can be molded in any type of vessels you choose -- from ramekins to demitasse, martini glasses to mason jars.  I like to compliment my panna cotta with a thin layer of gelée -- a gelatin stabilized glaze made from fresh fruit.  Apricots are in season right now, and are bursting with summer sweetness, so I chose to do an apricot gelée.  You can use my recipe with any type of fruit you'd like.  
Here are some photos of panna cottas I've made in the past with a variety of gelées and vessels:
Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Honey Gelée and Bee Pollen
Lemon Panna Cotta, no gelée
Meyer-Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry-Rhubarb Gelee

I like to decorate my desserts with edible flowers, especially in summer and springtime. My theme fo…


macncheese-1.jpg picture by sarahjmorriss

Perhaps I'm showing my age when I say ~

Macaroni & Cheese
A comfort food that I absolutely adore!  How about you?

My great-grandmother's recipe, of Pennsylvania Dutch origin, is what I was raised on.

My Kids
They won't eat it unless MY dad Mike makes it.

Culinary muses, whose recipes and ideas make our mouths water, are all around us.  My Muse for this post was Morgan at Becoming Home Grown. I recently enjoyed her post "Mac and Cheese of Doom", and it got me thinking, no, make that daydreaming about MY FAVORITE MACARONI AND CHEESE.

My husband and I were looking for a Macaroni & Cheese recipe that could be put together easily and relatively quickly, would have some depth and character, without compromising the classic taste that transports us to the land of Cozychildhoodville, and would please a crowd of diverse palettes (enter ~  my children ~ Miss Pickypants #1 and Miss Pickypants #2).  It had to have a creamy, melty middle and a delicious, golden, crunchy top that virtually begs for you to pick at it, despite the risk of severe, palette numbing burns, the moment it emerges from the oven.

We modified the Martini Mac & Cheese recipe from Cooks Country (the sister of our favorite publication, Cooks Illustrated), knowing full well that the addition of green olives and cocktail onions was tantamount to putting a live snake in the macaroni, as far as our girls were concerned.  The panko bread crumbs on the top were my addition ~ absolutely, gotta have a good buttery crunch!  What resulted was pure excellence!  A hit!  The cheddar gave just the right tang; the parmesan the perfect level of saltiness and nuttiness; and the gorgonzola contributed a depth of flavor in a sneaky sort of way (in that you wouldn't leap to the immediate conclusion that the cheese sauce contained a blue-veined cheese).  

Here's our recipe...

Rook No. 17's Favorite Macaroni & Cheese

(with three cheeses)


  • 1 lb. dry elbow macaroni
  • 5 TB butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-fat milk
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs (found in the Asian foods sections of grocery stores)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with rack adjusted to middle.
Grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside.

Step 1:  Bring 4 quarts water t a boil in a large pot. Add dried macaroni and 1 TB salt, and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain the pasta and return to pot.

Step 2:  While pasta is boiling, prepare the cheese sauce by melting 3 TB of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for one minute. Whisk in the milk and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened (5-7 minutes)

Step 3:  Off the heat, whisk in 3 ½ cups of the cheddar, ½ cup of the Parmesan, and the Gorgonzola until melted.

Step 4:  Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir until evenly combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining cheeses evenly over the top.

Step 5:  In a large sauté pan, melt remaining 2 TB butter. Remove from heat. Add panko bread crumbs and stir to combine . Sprinkle buttered bread crumbs over macaroni.

Step 6:  Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown ~ approx. 20 minutes. Cool for ten minutes before serving

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