‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Said People Think This Elegant Dessert Is ‘Too Scary to Make’ but Proves ‘It’s So Easy’

Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten once demonstrated how to make an elegant and rich dessert that many people shy away from because they think it’s “too scary to make.” It turns out it couldn’t be simpler, but it’s so fancy it gives the appearance that it’s very complicated.

Ina Garten attends the Food Network's rooftop birthday party in 2018 in New York City
Ina Garten | Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Ina Garten explains that this beautiful dessert is ‘so easy’

During a 2017 interview with PBS News Hour, Garten got to work in the kitchen making a vanilla rum panna cotta dessert with salted caramel on top.

The celebrity cook pointed out that some people believe the dessert is more complicated to make because it looks very impressive.

“I think panna cotta is one of those things that people think are too scary to make and it’s so easy to do, it’s incredible,” she explained. “It’s all in the way you present it.”

RELATED: Ina Garten’s Brownies Recipe Uses This ‘Magic’ Ingredient She Says Enhances the Chocolate Flavor

Barefoot Contessa’s vanilla rum panna cotta recipe

During the appearance, Garten demonstrates just how simple it is to make her vanilla rum panna cotta recipe in just a few steps. Plus, it’s a make-ahead recipe, so it can be prepared and refrigerated overnight.


  • 2 teaspoons (1 packet) unflavored gelatin
  • 3 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce
  • Fleur de sel

She begins by softening the gelatin in cold water then sets it aside. Garten then combines heavy cream, yogurt, vanilla extract and the seeds she scrapes from a vanilla bean. “I want the flavor and I want you to be able to see the vanilla beans,” she explains.

Garten adds the softened gelatin to a pan she’s heated sugar and cream in and stirs it to dissolve the gelatin. “It’s the gelatin that really makes this dish firm,” she says of the dessert. She pours the gelatin mixture into the bowl of cream and yogurt and adds the rum.

“That’s it,” she says of the easy dessert. “So it looks daunting, but it’s really not.”

Garten recommends making the panna cotta a day ahead so it can be refrigerated to set properly. “So, when you’re ready to serve dessert, it’s all ready,” she explains. Pour the panna cotta into a measuring cup with a spout before pouring it into drinking glasses for less mess.

“And then afterwards, after it sets, what we’re going to do is put caramel sauce on the top and salt — and that salt is that edge that I’m always looking for,” she shares. “You know, that gives it a lot of flavor.” The panna cotta is then refrigerated for 8 hours or overnight.

To serve the dessert, Garten heats store-bought caramel sauce in a pan until it’s slightly warm, adding a splash of rum (before the stove flame is lit). She adds a layer of the caramel on top and a pinch of salt, noting, “So what you get is the warm caramel, the salt, and then the cold panna cotta underneath it. The textures and the flavors are just incredibly good together.”

She tops each dessert portion with fleur de sel, which she explains is sea salt.