What is mascarpone?
If you are an Italian cuisine enthusiast, it is extremely likely that you have come across mascarpone. Native to the northern Italian region of Lombardy, just south of the iconic capital city, Milano, mascarpone (pronounced mah-sca-POH-ne) was first made during the late 1500s or early 1600s. Home to an array of Italy’s famous cheeses such as Taleggio, Gran Padano and Gorgonzola, Lombardy is hailed at one of the most prolific cheese-making havens. Its wealth in cheese is often attributed to its climate and landscape, for example, the northern part encompasses large valleys such as the Valtellina Valley and panoramas of water such as Lake Como and Lake Garda which supply nutrients to the rich Alpine pastures which feed the mountain cattle. Towards the south near Brescia and along the Po River, you’ll find gorgeous plains which equally deliver in their own unique selection of cheeses, including mascarpone.
How is mascarpone made?
The name 'mascarpone' comes from mascarpia, the local dialect for ricotta, as both cheeses are made using similar methods. Made using cow’s milk, the process in which this ultra-rich soft cheese is produced involves adding some form of acid e.g., lemon juice, citric acid or cream of tartar to heated double cream which consequently thickens & separates. The excess moisture (called whey) is then drained using a finely woven cloth, leaving the deliciously fresh and soft curds of spreadable cheese. Its unique flavour is slightly sweeter less tangy than cream cheese, crème fraiche and ricotta and due to its 60% to 70% fat content, it’s texture can only be described as luxuriously thick: the sumptuous middle ground between cream and butter.
Culinary uses of mascarpone
Most famous for being the creamy hero of the classic Italian dessert tiramisù, mascarpone is used in a myriad of both savoury and sweet recipes. For example, it features as the main ingredient for the filling of the Sicilian fried pastry dessert, cannoli, as well as in decadent, mascarpone filled tarts.
Much like butter, it can elevate most savoury dishes, providing that richness which forces an audible exhale while eating. Perhaps best known in the UK for tomato & mascarpone pasta sauce, it is used in a multitude of different pasta and lasagne dishes. It serves also as an indulgent topping on pizza or dolloped onto warm, wintry soups.
Our favourite mascarpone recipes
Incorporate mascarpone into your cooking by following any of these sweet or savoury dishes:
Mascarpone pasta recipes
Although this spicy sausage pasta recipe isn’t strictly traditional, it does lovingly combine ingredients from several regions of Italy: Calabrian ‘nduja, Campania’s famous Amalfi lemons and mascarpone from northern Lombardy. The fiery ‘nduja is tempered by the zesty lemon and mellow mascarpone, creating a beautifully balanced sauce.
Short twist of gemelli pasta bathe in a sauce of tomato and mascarpone that gets an extra hit of savoury depth from the inclusion of anchovies. A deliciously quick and easy recipe that's the perfect option for a mid-week meal.
Our smoked salmon pasta recipe uses mascarpone cheese, butter and a ladle of pasta water to create a delightfully creamy sauce. Lemon zest and fresh dill provide freshness and help to cut through the rich, smoky salmon.
Mascarpone dessert recipes
Combining creamy mascarpone, strong coffee and a sprinkling of cocoa powder, this decadent dolce is sure to lift your spirits. It also happens to be our Head Chef Roberta’s favourite dessert. In fact, this tiramisú recipe was passed down to her by her nonna, Carmela.
Get an authentic taste of Sicily with our delicious pistachio cannoli. The crunchy pastry shell gives way to a creamy ricotta and mascarpone filling studded with pistachio – truly delicious.