Is it cheese? Is it cream? Or both? Find out here.
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Mascarpone on green tablecloth
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You're probably familiar with mascarpone as the creamy, decadent layer in tiramisu that makes it taste so good. But what is it? Is it cheese? Is it cream? Or both? And how is it different than cream cheese? Learn everything you need to know about mascarpone and get top-rated recipes to put it to use.

What is Mascarpone Cheese?

When people say mascarpone, they're most likely referring to mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone cheese is a type of cheese originating in Italy. It's made from only two ingredients: heavy cream and citric or tartaric acid. The cream is heated and then the acid is added to solidify and thicken the cream. It's then run through a cheesecloth to remove excess liquid. The fat content is typically between 60 and 75 percent, making it easily spreadable and super silky.

The taste of mascarpone is similar to that of cream cheese, ricotta cheese, creme fraiche, or clotted cream, but with a little more sweetness and acidity. This makes it a versatile cheese for both sweet and savory dishes.

What is Mascarpone Cream?

You might have heard mascarpone referred to as mascarpone cream. The difference between mascarpone cheese and cream is mascarpone cream is made from mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar that are whipped together. The result is the whipped topping that's used to make tiramisu. It's also used as a topping for cake, fruit, and coffee drinks.

Mascarpone Cheese vs. Cream Cheese

Mascarpone is made from heavy cream, while cream cheese is made from whole milk. This gives mascarpone its high fat content and richer, creamier texture. The fat content of cream cheese is 30 to 40 percent, compared to mascarpone's whopping 60 to 75 percent fat content. Cream cheese is more acidic, giving it a more sour taste than mascarpone, but the two can generally be used interchangeably.

How to Make Your Own Mascarpone Cheese

We've already established that mascarpone cheese is made from just two simple ingredients: heavy cream and some form of acid. Although mascarpone is readily available in grocery stores, you can easily make your own from scratch.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Pour heavy cream into a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat until the cream reaches a simmer.
  2. Add the lemon juice, and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens.
  3. Dip a wooden spoon into the mixture. If the cream coats the spoon, it's ready.
  4. Move the saucepan into an ice bath and allow to cool completely.
  5. Pour mixture into a strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth. Put a bowl underneath the strainer to catch the excess liquid.
  6. Place in the fridge for 24 hours. Dump the excess liquid. Bellissimo!

Get the recipe: Homemade Mascarpone

5 Ways to Use Mascarpone

"Despite the rich and decadent mascarpone, the sauce for this spaghetti is actually pretty light; much of the sauce is chicken broth and squash," says Chef John.

"On my first trip to Italy to meet my husband's family back in 1995, I didn't speak a word of Italian. But I did learn how to make great 'dolci' from his sister, Maria," says recipe creator Kim's Cooking Now. "This was her recipe and now when we go back they ask me to make it!" Mascarpone cream is used to make this authentic recipe.

"These are really yummy, and they taste like a pumpkin pie cannoli...These would be a great dessert for Thanksgiving. I used mini chocolate chips on the ends, rather than sprinkles. Would make these again," says reviewer Kim's Cooking Now.

This savory dish has an Italian twist. Reviewer Meg Mae says, "The mascarpone is a genius addition. I used more than the recipe called for. My potatoes came out decadent, creamy and delicious."

Put your summer berries to use or make this refreshing dessert year-round. Chef John says, "This dessert is so fast and easy and looks cooked because we brulee sugar on top of the mascarpone. I'm not a big dessert person but this is my idea of the perfect finish to that early summer dinner."

Mascarpone Brulee with Fresh Berries
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now