Mascarpone: The Versatile Cheese
Mascarpone is one of the lesser known products in the cheese aisle. But it’s not as niche of a market as you may expect. About 100,000 tons of mascarpone is produced each year and shipped worldwide to a variety of culinary and retail outlets. So what exactly is mascarpone and what do you do with it?
What is Mascarpone?
Mascarpone is a soft cheese that originates from Italy. It is made by combining cream with an acidic substance like lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar. This gives it a smooth, creamy flavour with a consistency similar to cream cheese. Mascarpone is also surprisingly light, with about 40% less calories than butter.
Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, south of Milan, probably in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. There are three main theories for the origin of the name “mascarpone”. The first is that mascarpone derives from the Spanish phrase “mas que bueno” meaning more than good and the name emerged during Spanish rule over Italy. The next potential origin comes from the Lombardy word for ricotta cheese, “mascarpia’’. Mascarpone and ricotta are made using a similar process with the key difference being that ricotta is made from milk instead of cream. The third possible origin is that the name derives from “mascarpa” which is a by-product of aged cheese.
What to do with Mascarpone
Thanks to its mild and creamy flavour, mascarpone is one of the most versatile cheeses for cooking and baking. It is most famously used in the Italian dessert tiramisu. But the delicious cheese makes a great addition to lots of other dishes too.
In addition to tiramisu there are lots of other sweet applications for mascarpone cheese. It can often be used in place of cream cheese in cheesecakes or as a base for frosting on a cake. Another traditional use for mascarpone is as a filling in the Italian dessert cannoli.
Mera Mascarpone is a great addition to any dessert. Try out Mera Matcha Green Tea Cake with Mascarpone Cream:
Matcha Green Tea Cake with Mascarpone Cream
Matcha Green Tea Cake
80g Plain Flour
2 Tablespoons Matcha Powder
60ml Vegetable Oil
200g Mera Mascarpone
250g Fresh Cream
1 Teaspoon Matcha Powder
Preheat the oven to 200C. Separate the eggs and beat the whites until they form soft peaks. Add the salt and 40g of the sugar and beat until it forms stiff peaks.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until pale. Mix 3 tablespoons of warm water with the matcha powder to make a paste.
Add the matcha paste and the oil to the egg yolk mixture. Sift in the flour and mix until combined.
Fold in the egg whites one half at a time.
Fill two loaf tins with the mixture and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Mix the matcha powder with two teaspoons of warm water to make a paste. Beat the mascarpone, cream, matcha paste, and sugar together until thick and combined.
Slice cake into strips. Fill and top the cake with the mascarpone cream and dust with matcha powder to serve.
Mascarpone is traditionally thought of as a sweet cheese because of its strong connection to tiramisu. However, thanks to its creamy and mild flavour it is also a great addition in savoury recipes. Adding mascarpone to soups, sauces or dips can add a smooth and creamy taste and texture to the dish. It is also delicious spread on bread with various toppings and seasonings. Mascarpone takes the flavour of whatever it is paired with making it truly versatile in the kitchen.
Try our Mera recipe for Linguine with Mascarpone Cream Sauce:
Linguine With Mascarpone Cream Sauce
115g Mera Mascarpone
1 Lemon (Juice and Zest)
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Whisk together mascarpone, lemon juice and zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Boil a pot of salted water and cook the linguine until al dente. Drain the pasta, saving some of the pasta water.
Add linguine to a frying pan and stir in the sauce. Add in the spinach and pasta water and cook until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the hazelnuts and serve.