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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?

4 Answers 4

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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.

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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.

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It's just a lower fat cream with some stabilizers included. Why not just use cream, which, of course, is ubiquitous in France. If the cream is too rich for your liking, you could cut it with milk.

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  • Do you know if it is indeed cream with stabilizers? In other EU countries, I have seen an analogous designation used for cream at 15% fat, and yet in others, for plant-based cream substitute. I have no idea what it is in Italy, though.
    – rumtscho
    Feb 6, 2022 at 19:17
  • @rumtscho yes, it is basically a lower fat cream used in cooking. The literal English translation is "cooking cream."
    – moscafj
    Feb 6, 2022 at 19:27
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    "Panna Chef" has a distinctive thickness, so you can't just replace it with cream, in case you need that extra thickness. You have to add some thickener (e.g. cornstarch ), as suggested in the other answer.
    – Redy000
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:20
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    @Redy000 the "thickness" as you put it comes from the stabalizers, often carrageenan. Sure, one could add cornstarch or flour, but one could also allow the substituted cream to cook down and thicken. We are talking a substitution here, so, the result might not be exactly the same, but I am pretty sure one could achieve the desired result with cream alone.
    – moscafj
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:25
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    @moscafj I speak from experience, being Italian and having used the product tons of times. One example where "Panna Chef" works great is "pasta panna e prosciutto". If you try to boil down the cream, by the time you get to the same thickness, you are left with mostly cream fat (and you would have used like 3 times the amount of panna chef): it's like eating butter. The other option with fresh cream is to add tons of cheese, which gives a pretty strong taste to the recipe as well. So, I have to say, no, with cream alone you cannot get the same result.
    – Redy000
    Feb 7, 2022 at 13:55
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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.

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