What is mascarpone cheese?

October 19, 1999

Spiced Apple Walnut CheesecakeBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: Associated Press

The cheese that is the foundation of Spiced Apple Walnut Cheesecake, a recipe we ran Sunday, Oct. 10, packs a flavorful and caloric punch.

Via e-mail, reader Therese Manley of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., asked us what mascarpone cheese is, where it's available and what could be used as a substitute in the recipe. While researching her question, I learned the answers to those questions and a lot more.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Mascarpone is an Italian-style cheese that is smoother and more liquidy than cream cheese, says Laura Jacobs-Welch, administrative director of The American Cheese Society in Delavan, Wis. It has an almost whipped-cream-like quality, she says, and is well suited to pastry recipes and as a dip for fruit. It also can be used to make tiramisu, an Italian dessert.


According to the Web site, mascarpone is made from the milk of cows that are fed grasses filled with fresh herbs and flowers. It is believed to have originated between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, west and south of Milan, Italy.

The creamy cheese is rich. It has a whopping 453 calories per 3 1/2 ounces and contains 47 percent fat, according to

Where to find it

Jacobs-Welch says large chain grocery stores with good delicatessens often sell mascarpone. Locally, it is sold at County Market, 835 W. Hillcrest Road in Hagerstown, and at Martin's, 901 Foxcroft Ave. in Martinsburg, W.Va.

According to, gourmet shops also are a good source, as are Italian markets.

Substitutions offered these substitutions for 8 ounces of mascarpone:

* 8 ounces softened cream cheese mixed with 1/4 cup whipping cream.

* 8 ounces softened cream cheese mixed with 1 tablespoon cream, butter or milk.

* 6 ounces softened cream cheese mixed with 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cream.

* 8 ounces softened cream cheese mixed with 3 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons heavy cream (not whipped).

* Tiramisu fans sometimes whip ricotta or cottage cheese until it's smooth as an alternative to mascarpone.

Make it yourself

If you're feeling adventurous, Jacobs-Welch says mascarpone is easy to make. Heat one quart of light cream in a double-boiler and heat to 180 degrees. Add 1/4 teaspoon tartaric acid, a vegetable acid often sold at health-food stores. The mixture slowly will thicken to a custard-like texture with flecks of curd, she says. Stir it until it reaches the consistency of pudding.

"Prodigy Guest Chefs Cookbook" offers this recipe for making 1 pound of mascarpone:

  • water
  • 1 quart whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar or lemon juice

Find a stainless-steel bowl that fits inside a large saucepan without touching the bottom of the pan. Add water to the pan and place bowl in pan so it touches the surface of the water but still sits firmly on the rim of the pan. Remove bowl, place pan over medium heat and bring water to a boil.

Place whipping cream in bowl and place over boiling water. Adjust heat under pan to medium and heat cream, checking the temperature often with an instant-read thermometer, to 190 degrees, stirring occasionally.

Stir in vinegar, continuing to stir gently until cream begins to curdle. Remove pan from heat, cover and allow curds to firm up for 10 minutes.

Line a strainer or colander with dampened cheesecloth, a napkin or coffee filters. Set curds in strainer.

Allow mascarpone to cool to room temperature. Cover strainer tightly with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 24 hours to allow cheese to finish draining and become firm. Store in refrigerator in a tightly covered container. Use within three to four days.

Spiced Apple Walnut Cheesecake

For those of you who missed the recipe for Spiced Apple Walnut Cheesecake, here it is again:

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