THEY SAY that the best way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.

So, with Valentine’s Day been and gone, I figured you might be looking for a great way to show your special someone just how much you care about them on the other days of the year too.

Known in Italy as La Festa Degli Innamorati, Valentine’s Day is a very old tradition. One of the most popular beliefs about St Valentine himself is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD.

The story goes that Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage, because he didn’t think married men made very good soldiers, so St Valentine would marry couples in secret.

For this, it is said that Valentine was thrown in prison, and that before he was sentenced to death on February 14 he sent his own love a letter, signed ‘from your Valentine’.

Valentines Day is thought to have originated from a Roman festival. Lupercalia, celebrated in the middle of February, officially marks the start of spring.

It is thought that as part of the celebrations, boys would draw names of girls from a box, and become boyfriend and girlfriend during the festival – sometimes going on to get married.

As time went by, the church decided to turn this festival into a Christian celebration, and to use it to remember St Valentine too.

These days we use the day to pay tribute to those we love, and what better way that with a delicious dessert?

This month, the recipe I have decided to share with you is for panna cotta, and it is one that can be easily adapted, using different flavours to suit different palates, making it a customisable dessert that can please almost anyone.

Panna cotta (which translates very literally as ‘cooked cream’) is a very simple dessert, made with cream, sugar and gelatine.

As is often the case with Italian recipes, the origin of the dish is not know for fact, but some accounts claim the dish originated in northern Italy, where fish bones were used, simmered with the cream to help it set.

Thankfully, these days we can achieve this quickly, easily and - best of all - without using fish bones, by using gelatine.

One of the reasons panna cotta is a perfect choice for dessert is because it is so versatile. Depending on the type of dairy product you use, the dessert can be light and soft, or it can be rich and thick.

If you are a fan of fruity desserts, then raspberry panna cotta is a great one for you, however if you prefer something much sweeter then topping it with a salted caramel sauce is bound to please.

The only real skill involved in making panna cotta is ensuring you achieve the right consistency and texture – your panna cotta should be silky smooth, with a slight wobble to it – but if you follow the recipe to the letter, these things should take care of themselves.

Not only does it look good and taste great, but it is relatively inexpensive to make. So go on, show the one you love how much you care by surprising them with this delicious dessert.