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I love when I go out to eat and am inspired by something I have ordered. It could be as simple as the herbed butter that was served with the table bread or as complicated as the Burgundy-thyme reduction sauce that smothered the short rib. Whatever it may be, the challenge of recreating is always fun. A few nights ago I met two friends for dinner at Mercato, a great BYO on the corner of Spruce and Camac. The meal was excellent–butternut squash risotto, pumpkin fettucini, striped bass with cipollini onions–but the big hit was the pumpkin panna cotta we all shared for dessert. It was light, not too sweet and paired with a delectable pumpkin seed toffee. I’ve fiddled with my favorite buttermilk panna cotta recipe and have created something similar. It couldn’t be easier to make and I’m happy to have found one more recipe to add to my seasonal dessert repertoire. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Panna Cotta

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  • 2 tsp. gelatin (powder form)
  • ½ cup half and half
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¾ cup canned pumpkin purée
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon


  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over ¼ cup water. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan heat the half and half, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and pinch of salt until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin mixture, buttermilk, pumpkin purée, vanilla and bourbon.
  3. Strain mixture into a clean bowl or, ideally, a pourable Pyrex measuring cup. Pour mixture into martini glasses or ramekins and chill until set, 3 hours. I garnished mine with some candied pecans and store-bought hazelnut pirouette cookies, which is totally unnecessary, but complements the pumpkin flavor nicely. Also, if you don’t care about presentation, it is much easier to chill the panna cotta in ramekins: the martini glasses take up a lot of room in the refrigerator and are quite unstable.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes