Impress your guests with this mostly healthy Pumpkin Panna Cotta holiday dessert.

I have a confession: I have Pumpkin Flavor Fatigue. It started a few years ago with a certain coffee chain’s yearly pumpkin spice latte launch. I’d excitedly ordered the coffee, took a big, loving sip, and realized that it tasted like pumpkin-flavored chemicals. It’s been downhill from there.

This year I decided to win at pumpkin dessert—and to do it from the comfort of my own kitchen. I chose a panna cotta as a vehicle because it’s a creamy, delicious dessert; it’s under-appreciated and seems fancy while being relatively foolproof. It’s also Paleo-ish, which is exactly how I approach the holidays—as Paleo as I can stand while still enjoying all the flavors of the season.

And people, I’ve found a secret ingredient that will make your pumpkin dishes insane: Black pepper. It scared me at first, but in the interest of science, just try it. It will make you a hero.

Don’t neglect the black pepper and also don’t neglect the peanut brittle topper—it adds a great crunch that makes this reminiscent of a crème brulee, without the need for a blowtorch. Feel free to switch out the pepitas for another nut, use creamy peanut butter or none at all, or subtract the hot sauce. But as written, the spice level is low, so even my spice-averse mom enjoyed it. (And by the way, mom says Happy Holidays!)

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

Makes 6 servings

1 packet unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy whipping cream, ¼ cup reserved
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup honey
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground black pepper (ground)
¼ teaspoon salt

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin over ¼ cup of the whipping cream. Let sit, cold, for 5 minutes until the gelatin softens. In a medium saucepan, add the rest of the cream and the gelatin mixture and stir over medium heat until the gelatin completely dissolves, about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not let the cream boil.

Next, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until everything is combined; again, don’t let the mixture boil.

Pull the pumpkin mix off the burner and let it cool slightly. This is a great time to dip a spoon in and test your flavors. I added more pepper.

Spoon the mixture by ½ cup servings into whatever you’ve got—wine glasses, those cute little wide-mouthed canning jars, ramekins or even one large serving dish. Pop them in the fridge until they’re set—at least 3-4 hours, but overnight is best. Top with the brittle (recipe below).

Spicy Peanut Buttah Brittle

1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce

Grease a cookie sheet and set it aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and corn syrup to a vigorous boil, stirring constantly. When it starts to turn light brown, add in the pepitas and salt and continue boiling for 5-8 more minutes. When the mixture has become a nice warm amber color, pull the pan off the heat and add the crunchy peanut butter and Sriracha, stirring until well combined. (NOTE: This mixture is positively molten. Don’t make the mistake I did and stick a finger into the mix to taste-test—you will regret it!) Pour immediately into the pan and allow to cool. (A pop into the fridge will hasten the set time.)

When the mixture is set, crack it apart and sprinkle it onto the top of your panna cotta.