Mascarpone Cheese

November 13, 2006 5 Comments

Mascarpone Cheese

What is Mascarpone?

First of all, mascarpone is a fresh cow’s milk cheese that is classified as triple cream.  It’s very rich because of its 60% to 75% milk fat content. Mascarpone has a soft texture like cream cheese making it spreadable. It is whitish to straw yellow in color and when fresh smells like milk and cream. It tastes sweet and slightly tart at the same time.

If you have heard of mascarpone, most likely it was associated with Tiramisu, an Italian dessert made with espresso that translates from “pick-me-up”.  But mascarpone is used in lots of other recipes including sauces as well as mixing it with ingredients like mustard or anchovies and spreading on bread. It’s also tasty all alone topped with fresh berries.


It is believed mascarpone originated in Italy just south and west of Milan in a area near Lodi back in the late 16th or early 17th century. There are lots of tales of how it was named but the one I like is that it came from the word “mascarpia”, a local dialect for the word ricotta. Both cheeses are made the same way.

How is it made?

Mascarpone is made with heavy cream (although I have seen recipes using light cream) and tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is found in the sediment of fermented wine.  The cream is heated to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, tartaric acid is dissolved in water then added and the cream will immediately begin to thicken.

The curds are strained through fine cheesecloth and allowed to drain for 12 to 24 hours until the curds become Mascarpone.

Mascarpone is sold right after it is made and only has a one week shelf life, one reason it is so hard to find in your supermarkets.

Can you make it yourself?

Sure, but I’m not so sure you want to go to the effort unless you really like to make things from scratch. If you search Google for mascarpone recipes, you will find a few that you may want to try.

I also read that you can purchase a Mascarpone Kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company that comes with recipe booklet and the cheesecloth, dairy thermometer and tartaric acid you’ll need.

What about substitutes?

As I said in my reply to the questioner, there really is no substitute for fresh mascarpone as far as texture and taste but there are a few alternatives.

One can try substituting equal amounts of fresh cream cheese and sour cream mixed together or you can try combining ricotta cheese with heavy cream.  Again if you do a search on “mascarpone substitutes” you’ll find a bunch of recipes.

Where can you find it?

Because of its short shelf life, you may not be able to find mascarpone in your local supermarket. If you have a specialty market around, there’s a much better possibility you’ll find it. Places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods usually have it in stock.

I’ve also seen it in cheese shops and Italian markets but if you don’t have any of these types of establishments near you, you can always order it on-line.

Don’t mispronounce it.

The most common mistake when talking about mascarpone is to pronounce it “marscapone” with the r before the s. I know, I’ve spelled it that way several times already in this blog before going back to fix it.

Buying cheese online

Online Sources: Cheese

Convenience - Selections - Quality - Gift Giving - Corporate Events

I strongly urge you to find a good cheese shop near you so you can get to know your cheesemongers and they get to know you. However, if you don't have a good local cheese shop or they don't have some of the cheeses I recommend, here are some online sources for you. Be careful to buy the best product you can afford so you don't end up with an inferior product. The links below are affiliate links.
Di Bruno Bros Gourmet Cheeses & Meats
Di Bruno Brothers is close to home to me. They have been in Philadelphia since 1939 and prided themselves on bringing amazing food to the city of Philadelphia and drawing food lovers together in their ‘home.’ They also have a store just outside of Philly where I get most of my cheese and cured meats. If you can't find a particular cheese in your market, most likely Di Bruno Bros. will.

In 2002, a group of classically trained and talented Chefs found themselves as Executive Chefs in kitchens across the country. While creating their menus and gourmet specials it became obvious that certain quality products they had found in specific regions of the country and around the world were not always available to them. They quickly began to realize the value of getting the best, freshest and origin specific gourmet products to their kitchens and more importantly, to their customers. That need and passion for the freshest and finest gourmet products evolved into For the Gourmet.




Last modified on Wed 11 July 2018 12:43 pm

Filed in: Fresh Cheeses

Comments (5)

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  1. Josh says:

    FYI: It’s getting much easier to find. Even my local Walmart has it!

  2. Heather says:

    I made 2 lbs of it myself the other day.
    It was easyto make and delicious. When it is on the dessert menu as “housemade” you bulge with a sense of pride.

  3. Chef Ricco says:

    Well Gary, I have a little somthing to say about this article. First being that mascarpone and ricotta are made all togeather different. Marcapone is made with heavy cream with a little tartaric acid and flake salt and heated to 180 to 185 degrees and after that you can start the process. Ricotta on the other hand is made from the whey that is left over from the making of mozzarella. After the mozzarella is made the whey goes back to the heat to 200 degrees and then you add vinegar to made the curd. That is why it’s called riccotta, twice cooked.

  4. RG says:

    Chef Ricco is once again right and I stand corrected and will fix my blog above to read correctly.
    Mascarpone in not made like Ricotta cheese but as described by Chef Ricco.

  5. Analisa says:

    Always my pleasure to find a blog worth reading.

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