I've been living in France for a while yet have been unable to find something similar to Italian panna for pasta use. Does anyone know if such thing exists in here?
If you mean something like "Chef Panna Classica", the ingredient list says it's cream (21.5% fat) with added stabilizer (carrageen). If I remember correctly, cream in France labelled "légère" which means "light" is often around 15 to 20% fat. Check the label.
If the cream looks a bit thinner that what you are used to, probably because it doesn't contain carrageen which is a kind of thickener, then perhaps you could add a little cornflour (aka cornstarch) to a recipe.
Here in the UK, the closest would be what we call "single cream", which is approx 18% fat, but doesn't contain stabilizers/thickeners either.
One convenient point of any Italian "Panna da Cucina" is it's thickness, which helps to bind the ingredients together without needing too much fat. An example is "Pasta panna e prosciutto". As explained in other answers, this comes from the carrageen, which acts as a stabilized and thickener.
So, to get the same results, the cream alone won't be enough.
The trick is to, somehow, replace the thickener with something else. You can try the following options to use the fresh cream:
- Add some corn starch or flour (as already said)
- Use a small amount of Roux (cooked butter+flour)
- Add some grated cheese, like Parmesan or Grana (Of course here there will be a strong cheese taste, depends if it goes well in your recipe)
Boiling down the cream will reduce the cream's water content and concentrate the fat, resulting in a 60-80% fat amount: in the end, it will taste like eating butter, making the dish super heavy (beside having a huge amount of calories per bite).
PS: I am Italian, I have cooked with "Panna Chef" (one of the brands) many times, and tried the alternatives using fresh cream.
Edit: for who never saw this kind of product, "Panna da cucina"'s thickness is the same as a toothpaste (at ambient temperature), it's not liquid at all. This is why it cannot be replaced with just regular cream.
The traditional way to make Panna da cucina is not with stabilizers, but simply by whipping fresh whole milk with a light oil, like sunflower oil, and a pinch of salt. So you can make your own quite easily if you have a mixer (or a high-endurance arm). The ratio of milk to oil you can tune to taste, but about 1.5:1 up to 2:1 ratio by weight works well (more oil than milk). Add the oil slowly while mixing to incorporate air.