Mascarpone Cheese “Italian Cream Cheese”
Homemade Mascarpone Cheese “Italian Cream Cheese”
by Chef Charles Knight
Mascarpone originated during the Middle Ages in the dairy rich Lombardy Region of norther Italy bordering Switzerland. In the 1500s and 1600s, dairymen in the region became famous for selling fresh cheese curds, known as mascarpone. Mascarpone is a specialty in Lombardy and is used in many local dishes, from savory to sweet. In the United States, it is more commonly associated with Tiramisu.
Although there are a number of theories as to the origin of the word “mascarpone” its most obvious origin comes from the Lombardy word for ricotta cheese, "mascarpia." Ricotta cheese and mascarpone are produced using a similar process.
The Italian government has given mascarpone the P.A.T. (Prodotto agroalimentare tradizionale) or "traditional regional food product" label so that no other city, country, or state can lay claim to its origin and history.
Mascarpone, the Italian cream cheese adds a perfect finishing touch to fresh and especially grilled fruit and it is perfect with berries when mixed with honey as a whipped cream substitute. Spread mascarpone on Pizza or better yet French toast or cinnamon toast and drizzle with honey. Combine mascarpone with rhubarb and gelatin for a creamy-fruity filling, glaze, or topping.
For an Italian breakfast that you will not soon forget; add mascarpone to your scrambled eggs, top with mascarpone infused spaghetti sauce, served with Italian sausage and toasted avocado bread – avocado with mascarpone and sundried tomatoes.
Vegetables, especially with oven baked or grilled eggplant explode with flavor when topped with mascarpone. Top asparagus with mascarpone and grated hazelnut. Add mascarpone to a puree of cooked butternut squash for a creamy sauce or soup. Simmer broccoli in chicken stock stir in the mascarpone and season with sea salt and pepper. Add mascarpone to mashed potatoes. Cheesy au gratin mascarpone mushroom and potato casserole anyone?
Thicken up your beef stroganoff with mascarpone. Mascarpone with cheese grits Charleston?
Mascarpone added to your family favorite cheesecake or flan recipe will blow your mind. Try my Puerto Rican Flan recipe. Add mascarpone to your family favorite cake frosting, mousse or banana bread. Instead of folding sour cream into a batter try mascarpone.
For a thicker, creamier, rich beef, chicken or pork gravy add mascarpone. Lox, bagels, and mascarpone?
Mascarpone is made with heavy cream whereas cream cheese is made with whole milk, so mascarpone has a higher fat content which lends to a richer, creamier, almost buttery taste and texture. It also contains a large amount of essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A. It is a dense source of high-quality protein and half the calories of butter.
At times it can be difficult to find a good quality mascarpone cheese in your local supermarket, but it is not that hard to prepare homemade! When you do, it will open up a whole new world of sweet and savory Italian dishes!
PREPARATION TIME: 45 minutes – makes about 1 cup
EQUIPMENT: 1 Qt. saucepan, saucier or 11-inch WOK whisk, 2 Qt. fine sieve, 3 Qt. glass bowl, cheesecloth
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pour the heavy cream into saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat to a gentle boil or until the thermometer temperature reaches 190°F. Whisk gently to be sure it does not scorch.
Once the cream comes to a simmer add the lemon juice and whisk occasionally as the cream begins to thicken, about 8 to 10 minutes. When the cream thickens and coats the back of a spoon, remove from heat.
Let the cream cool to room temperature, which will take about half an hour. Or place the pan in an ice bath and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
Line the sieve with a double layer of cheesecloth and set that over the bowl to catch the dripping whey. Pour the cream into the cheesecloth. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours or overnight.
Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and keep in an Ultra-Vac with air removed, or a tightly closed container. Refrigerator until ready to use. With air removed it can last 7 to 10 days.
The whey from the cream left in the glass bowl can be used for other recipes, like Italian bread, or discarded.