Famous for being an essential ingredient in Tiramisu, mascarpone is an Italian triple cream cheese prepared with unskimmed cows’ milk. Because of its high perishability, in the past mascarpone used to be produced only during the winter season; nowadays, of course, it is available all year round.
Despite being classified as cheese, mascarpone is not exactly a real one because its preparation does not involve the use of rennet: it is obtained from milk cream to which citric acid or lemon juice are added to help it solidify; the resulting curd is then gently heated until it reaches the perfect consistency. After draining the whey, this specialty is ready for enjoyment.
Mascarpone usually comes in tubs and has an ivory color; its texture is exceptionally smooth and creamy, with a delicate taste. Compared to standard cream cheese that normally tastes more like a savory cheese, mascarpone has a sweeter, buttery flavor; besides, mascarpone has a higher fat content thus providing an important energy intake while offering an unparalleled indulgence.
The delicate flavor of mascarpone naturally lends itself to baking: it can replace sour cream in banana bread and be baked in cheesecakes and muffins. It can also be used – instead of whipped cream – to top a bowl of fresh fruit or as a frosting for cupcakes. On its own, with a sprinkle of cocoa powder and chocolate shavings, is a simple yet very enjoyable dessert.
Thanks to its high percentage of saturated fat, mascarpone is used in savory recipes to add rich texture to many different dishes. It can replace cream to thicken soups, stuff chicken breasts or add extra flavor to roasted vegetables. It goes well with walnuts and radicchio for a healthy salad or it can be simply used as a spread in a sandwich. Its creamy texture makes it the right addition to pasta sauces and scrambled eggs, too. The absence of rennet in its preparation process makes it perfect for vegetarians.