What Is Mascarpone Cheese, Really?

Picture a world in which you go to bite into a delicious cannoli…only to crunch down into nothing but air (plain, unflavored air at that!). This is a world without mascarpone, and we’re already regretting making you picture it. Please accept our apologies. Anyhow, mascarpone is the soft, creamy, spreadable cheese used in all manner of Italian dishes, both sweet and savory! It has made mouths water for centuries, but today we thought it was high time to find out a little bit more about this stuff.

How to pronounce mascarpone?

This is a good place to start, as we’ll be using the word “mascarpone” an awful lot in the coming paragraphs, and you’re going to want to pronounce it correctly in your head. Here’s how to pronounce mascarpone like an Italian: maa-skar-pow-nay. Practice it a few times out loud before that pleasure trip to Italy, and you’ll be sure to impress everyone you meet! If you aren’t trying to pronounce it the Italian way, you can just say: maa-skar-pone. 

What is mascarpone? Is mascarpone cream cheese?

Mascarpone can be loosely categorized as a cream cheese, however there are some subtle differences that make it its own thing entirely. Traditional cream cheese is made with milk as a base, while mascarpone is made with a base of whole cream butterfat. This means that mascarpone ends up having a much higher overall fat content than common cream cheese (usually about 25% more, to be exact). So, be prepared for a much more decadent morning if you choose to spread it on a bagel in place of your standard schmear.  

What does mascarpone taste like?

While often compared to cream cheese, ricotta cheese, crème fraiche, or clotted cream, mascarpone is far sweeter and less tangy than any of them. 

Is mascarpone sweet?

While not overly sweet, mascarpone is clearly on the sweeter end of the cheese spectrum. It is often found in desserts such as cheesecake, blintzes, and even sorbet, to give them a creamy texture and rich flavor. It is also the primary ingredient in such Italian favorites as tiramisu and cannoli. 

What is mascarpone cheese used for?

Aside from the above-mentioned desserts, mascarpone can also be used in savory dishes like lasagna, polenta, pizza, and can be used quite effectively to thicken your risotto (along with butter and/or parmesan). Also, you didn’t hear it from us, but even just a spoonful on its own can be a satisfying treat. 

Mascarpone is something we’re very glad exists. A world without tiramisu or cannoli is one that would be far more drab and uninspired. We’ll keep living in the mascarpone-filled world, thank you! You can take your unfilled cannoli back to that alternate dimension where they belong! 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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