What it is, how it tastes, and how to use it in your favorite recipes

By Kelly Vaughan
December 26, 2018

You may know of mascarpone as the creamy, luscious ingredient in tiramisu—but what is mascarpone? Besides the decadent, layered Italian dessert, how else is mascarpone used? Is it cheese, cream, or both? Keep reading for answers to all your questions, as well as some serious recipe inspiration that will have you rushing to the store to stock up.

What is Mascarpone Cheese?

Mascarpone cheese is a soft Italian double or triple cream cheese. It typically has between a 60 to 75 percent fat content, depending on the producer, which gives it a super spreadable, silky consistency. Mascarpone cheese originated in Abbiategrasso and Lodi in northern Italy. It is a fresh cheese that is most commonly made with pasteurized cow’s milk. Unlike some cheeses, which have animal-derived rennet added, mascarpone is vegetarian. It's made by heating heavy cream and adding an acid like tartaric acid (aka cream of tartar), citric acid, or lemon juice to solidify and thicken the cream. Mascarpone is then strained through a cheesecloth to remove excess liquid whey.

What is Mascarpone Cream?

Mascarpone cream is a traditional Italian whipped topping. It is made by whipping mascarpone cheese with eggs, and sugar and is the tangy, velvety layer in tiramisu. In Italy, mascarpone cream is often served alongside pound cake, fresh berries, or on an espresso drink.

To make your own, whisk together 16 ounces of mascarpone cheese and ½ cup sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Slowly add in 3 egg yolks until creamy. For a flavorful, boozy finish, add in two tablespoons of rum, brandy, or cognac. BelGioioso also sells their own version of sweetened mascarpone cream known as Crema di Mascarpone.

What Does Mascarpone Taste Like?

Mascarpone cheese is often compared to cream cheese, ricotta cheese, crème fraiche, and clotted cream; however, mascarpone is a sweeter and less tangy product than its peers. Mascarpone is slightly sweet with a hint of acidity. Its rich, creamy texture makes it an indulgent addition to both sweet and savory dishes.

What Are Some Delicious Mascarpone Recipes?

Try it in our twist on a classic Italian dish— Molasses Tiramisu— or as the star of the show in Blueberry Ginger Cupcakes with Honeyed Mascarpone Frosting. You can also add mascarpone cheese to any homemade ice cream base. Mix in 8 ounces mascarpone to heated custard before churning for a rich flavor and extra-creamy consistency. We love it in our pecan pie ice cream or as a zesty compliment to lemon meringue pie ice cream.

Make savory dishes like creamy parmesan risotto and creamy polenta even more decadent by incorporating mascarpone cheese, or substitute sour cream for mascarpone in creamy one-pot mashed potatoes.

Where to Find Mascarpone Cheese:

Mascarpone cheese is sold in most commercial and specialty grocery stores. BelGioioso, Galbani, Cello, and Gelmini are the most prevalent producers of mascarpone cheese. A 16-oz. package of mascarpone cheese costs approximately $8.

This article originally appeared on Real Simple

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