Panna Cotta means "Cooked Cream" in Italian. The origins of this dessert seem to be the region of Piedmont in norther Italy, which has earned it the prestigious seal of approval as a traditional Italian regional food product.
Panna cotta is easy to make and is a light, luxurious, chilled dessert popular throughout Italy. This silky milk pudding is set with gelatin (or agar, if you are vegetarian). It looks very elegant especially if garnished with a curl of lemon peel, pomegranate, seasonal fresh berries, spices, chocolate sauce or alternatively with whatever sauce or fruit you like (just be careful about the extra carbs if adding fruit you intend to eat). You can serve it in bowls, or let it set in individual ramekins, fancy glassware, or use individual molds which are placed on a plate.
You can also replace the cream with alternative milks such as coconut, almond or other nut milks for a vegan variation. But note that less thick, alternative milks may require more gelatin or agar to thicken properly.
The traditional Italian panna cotta recipe uses real cream, table sugar and gelatin. However this is a very versatile recipe and numerous and increasingly lighter versions can be made. Panna Cotta can be flavored with many alternatives to lemon as I have shown above, such as cocoa, lavender, brandy etc.
An additional great thing about this dessert for prep ahead meals, it is possible to freeze the panna cotta (after it is fully set). When you want to serve it for dinner, simple put it into the refrigerator in the morning, so it thaws slowly, and you can serve it in the evening. Remember to garnish with your chosen toppings.