You probably wouldn’t connect the Venetian operahouse Teatro Maliran with food … but there’s actually a recipe named after it. Maybe it’s even the original recipe of the all-Italian panna cotta. Panna cotta is Italian for crème brulée. Teatro Malibran is located just beyond the sotopórtego you can see in the picture below.
This operahouse holds an obvious yet rather little known secret – we’ll come back in detail to that in our book series.
Teatro Malibran has been built on the foundations of the house where Marco Polo lived. Next to the theater, the several courtyards belonging the group of houses of the Polo Family are located – Le corti dei Milion … taking us back to tales and Venetian history that could fill books, cookbooks included …
Teatro Malibran derives its name from the singer Maria Malibran, a Paris-born Spanish soprano. She came to sing in Venice in 1835 and was appalled at the condition of this operahouse located opposite the Rialto Market. She refused her fee and donated it to restoration works – that’s why the operahouse took on her name. You see, in 1835, Venice was under Austrian occupation, and times had changed quite a bit …
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. And here’s this historical recipe of 1835:
It’s a soft pudding, but – as you can guess !! – this time, flavored with spice and fruit extract, and there’s covered with caramelized sugar and vanilla extract = crème caramel.
Panna Cotta Malibran
A light historcial 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.
PS – you don’t find the recipe often, and it’s not common on the menu in Venetian restaurants – but you get panna cotta in most places!. I know about this special panna cotta recipe because my grandmother told me the story, and I also found a reference to it in a Venetian cooking directory – Dizionario enogastronomico del Veneto.