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What is Panna? Interesting Facts to Know!

What is Panna? Interesting Facts to Know!

What is Panna?

Panna, simply put, is a noun in Italian that means “cream.” It is used in many sentences and descriptions of items made with creams in Italy, such as sour cream, whipping cream, and even pastries that contain cream. American store shelves are jam-packed with “Panna” products although in the USA we simply call the delicacy “cream.” 

What is Panna?
What is Panna?

The love of Panna and all creams is worldwide as it does have the effect of not only tasting delicious but being a sort of comfort food when individuals are stressed out. Similarities exist in consistency and fat content in cream and Panna in the USA and Italy. 

Half-and-Half cream in the US is 10 percent fat as is Panna Caffetteria in Italy. As the fat content increases so does the creaminess of the product, and in the US, there is whipping cream, and even cream cheese. 

Half-and-Half Cream, or Panna Caffetteria, according to the Food Network, is used to simply make coffees, milkshakes, smoothies, and other beverages creamier.  Most of the coffee creamers in the USA use Half-and-Half. 

Half-and-half is often used as a coffee creamer and is the equivalent of Panna Caffetteria in Italy.
Half-and-half is often used as a coffee creamer and is the equivalent of Panna Caffetteria in Italy.

Panna da Cucina is the equivalent of the USA light cream coming in at 15 to 25 percent fat, while the “heavyweight of creams” (pardon the pun), Panna da Montara, or heavy whipping cream in the USA comes in at 35 percent fat. 

What appears mostly on supermarket shelves in the USA and Italy is the Panna da Montara or heavy whipping cream as it is the second most decadent and used for desserts. Lighter creams cannot be whipped into peaks for desserts and toppings. 

Panna Doppia, or Double Cream in the USA, is not regularly accessible in shops in either Italy or the United States as it is generally a confectionary cream used by professional bakers for high-end culinary usages. 

It is 48 percent fat and most average consumers could not bear to eat it regularly because of its calorie and fat content. 

Double cream is the most decadent cream with a fat content of 48 percent.
Double cream is the most decadent cream with a fat content of 48 percent.

What is Panna – More Information

Fat-rich creams generally have a cream that separates from the milk, and rises to the top, where it is skimmed off and sold as cream. However, all fat-rich creams should be eaten in moderation because it is not what one would consider heart-healthy. 

While some highly paid and seasoned chefs do use Double Cream in sauces and entrees, most restaurants and home cooks use this to make the dessert called Panna Cotta, which is part gelatin and part Double Cream. It is extremely popular in both the USA and Italy. 

Panna cotta is a popular Italian dessert made with cream and gelatin.
Panna cotta is a popular Italian dessert made with cream and gelatin.

Baking with Panna or any creams takes a bit of practice. Even whipping cream, the most common usage requires skill and practice. Learning to make whipped toppings is the easiest way to practice skills with Panna and whipped cream. 

It comes as a liquid, and a large bowl, as well as a whisk or a mixer (the mixer will spare your muscles), should be on hand. Everything should be cold, the bowl, the cream, and the utensils. Once you start you cannot stop the process or the cream falls flat again.

 Whether you call it Italian or use USA expressions, you must use quality heavy cream. Starting slowly is the key. You start whipping at a lower speed if using a mixer, and then increase the speed if necessary. 

You are seeking soft peaks that stand on their own. Whipping too far will cause “peak collapse” and you are back to square one. Failure usually happens the first time or two so don’t give up! The peaks should be shiny and not hard although firm. 

What is Panna?- 3 Little Known Facts 

1. Whipping cream can be made from milk alone

Although heavy cream or Panna da Montarra is what is generally used, plain whole milk can be used. The concoction will not be as creamy and will take longer for the peaks to form, but it can be done. This should be reserved for those with some experience in making whipped cream. 

There is an extra step in using homogenized milk as a base for whipped cream as you must first separate the cream from the milk. It is not a difficult process but really not quick. 

2. Whipping cream freshly made curdles quickly

After you have used the heavy cream or Panna da Montarra, you should use it immediately. It will not spoil for a day or two but will lose its peaks and firmness and might become very watery. 

If you do not expect to use your freshly made whipped cream in a day or two, then take the easy way out and use the canned variety sold in supermarkets which will last about two weeks or even more in some cases. 

Yes, it is not the “purist” version but it is a quicker method of obtaining whipped cream. 

Freshly made whipping cream curdles quickly.
Freshly made whipping cream curdles quickly.

3. Cottage cheese is actually a heavy cream/Panna product

This is the truth. Called Paneer in Italy, it is heavy cream with curds and whey separated from whole milk. The liquid at the bottom of the container is the water that naturally extracts itself. 

After separating the curds and whey, heavy cream is added to the mixture and the amount of cream determines whether the cottage cheese is high fat or low fat. 

Large curd and small curd cottage cheese also exist. The size of the curds depends upon how much of the whey is extracted as the curds are actually curdled milk. 

Is Cool Whip ®and Other Non-Dairy Products The Same as Panna?

The term “non-dairy” says it all. There is no cream in these products. They are emulsifications of other types of food substances such as oils, etc. It is hydrogenized, and not at all any type of dairy food. 

While eating fats from heavy creams is not healthy either, hydrogenized foods use a chemical process to remove the liquids from oils and convert the oils to fat. Your body, your choice, but these are the facts. 

If My Cream Smells Bad Or Tastes Foul, Should I Use it? 

Never consume any dairy products that smell or taste bad. You can get sick and if you serve it you may make others ill. What most individuals do not realize is that ANY spoiled food means bacteria have entered it.

This is what causes the bad smell and foul taste. In the USA especially, individuals do not like to waste food so will eat food many times that they should not. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that foodborne illnesses account for over 80 million Emergency Room visits per year in the USA. 

Especially in the warmer climates in the US and globally, all dairy foods should be refrigerated at the lowest temperature possible without freezing until use. 37 degrees F at the very least should be used for the storage of dairy products. 

Summary Of What Is Panna

Panna is simply the Italian term for half and half cream that is used extensively in the USA. It is not exotic, magical, or mystical, although quite delicious and used in coffee and beverages. Other versions of Panna with more fat are used for desserts and recipes. 

Panna gives rise to many other types of creams and cheeses, especially whipped cream and heavy cream-based products so it is as much a staple in the USA as in Italy and other countries. Indulge but judiciously! 

Frequently Asked Questions to What is Panna

Is Panna Any Different Than Cream? 

It is actually the same as half-and-half sold in the USA. Panna is simply the Italian term for this milk product

Is Panna better than Half-and-Half?

Panna is a term for cream used in Italy and some other Mediterranean countries. Panna is not better than half-and-half because they are the same type of product.

If I Make a Batch of Whipped Cream, Can I Freeze It For Later? 

You can but it may not look or taste the same. Freezing adds water to any product and when you defrost it, you have watery whipped cream. It won’t harm you but the effort you put into it is lost. 

Daniel Iseli (Head Chef)

Hi, my name is Daniel and I am passionate about cooking and have made it my mission to answer as many open questions related to cooking and food as possible. I am by no means a professional cook. But cooking is a hobby that I have loved for the past 20 years and I am getting better by the day.