Italy’s most luxurious fresh cheese, mascarpone is a soft, buttery cow’s milk variety of double-to-triple-cream status. The ivory-coloured cheese is delicate in flavour and extra creamy in texture. It has a milk fat content of 60 to 75%. Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese coagulated by the addition of certain acidic substances such as lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid. It is recognized as a Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionale (PAT)
Mascarpone soft cheese is milky-white in colour and is easy to spread. It is used in various Lombardy dishes and is considered a speciality in the region. It is one of the main ingredients in the modern Italian dessert known as tiramisu. The cheese is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto. Mascarpone is also used in cheesecake recipes.
After denaturation, the whey is removed without pressing or ageing. Mascarpone may also be made using cream and the residual tartaric acid from the bottom or sides of barreled wine. The traditional method is to use lemon juice at the rate of three tablespoons per pint of heated heavy cream. The cream is allowed to cool to room temperature before it is poured into a cheesecloth-lined colander, set into a shallow pan or dish, and chilled and strained for one to two days.
Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. The name is popularly held to derive from mascarpa, an unrelated milk product made from the whey of stracchino (a young, barely aged cheese), or from mascarpia, a word in the local dialect for ricotta. Ricotta, unlike mascarpone, is made from milk and not cream.