You probably wouldn’t connect the Venetian opera house Teatro Malibran with food, but there’s actually a recipe named after it. Maybe it’s even the original recipe of the all-Italian panna cotta.
Teatro Malibran was built on the foundations of the house where Marco Polo lived. Next to the opera house, the courtyards that once belonged to the Polo Family are located, called Le corti dei Milion.
Teatro Malibran derives its name from singer Maria Malibran, a Paris-born Spanish soprano. She came to sing in Venice in 1835 and was appalled at the condition of this opera house located opposite the Rialto Market. She refused her fee and donated it to restoration works, and for this reason the opera house was named after her. You see, in 1835, Venice was under Austrian occupation and these were difficult times.
It seems that an unknown Venetian fan created a dessert in Maria Malibran’s honor to thank her for donating for the restoration of the opera house. Here we share this historical recipe first published in the year 1835. It’s a soft pudding but flavored in the Venetian style with spices and fruit extract and covered with caramelized sugar and vanilla extract (crema caramelizzata).
Panna Cotta Malibran
A light historical dessert from Venice
Make a pudding mixture from 2 egg yolks, 1/2 liter milk, 40 gr granulated white sugar, one vanilla bean cut into pieces, a hint of cinnamon and cardamom and grated orange peel.
Heat the milk with the vanilla bean pieces and the sugar for at least 20 minutes or until the liquid becomes very thick. As soon as the liquid has started to cool, filter it carefully and stir in the egg yolks (the liquid must be about room temperature, otherwise it won’t work). Fill the mixture into small forms (forms for cakes or muffins), cover with granulated sugar and chocolate drops if you like (optional). Bake in the oven at low heat until the sugar melts. This dessert is best enjoyed fresh and at room temperature.
You won’t find the recipe in cookbooks and neither on the menu in Venetian restaurants but you can taste panna cotta in most places! I know about this special recipe because my grandmother told me the story and I also found a reference in a Venetian cooking directory, Dizionario enogastronomico del Veneto.