Mascarpone is quite similar to cream cheese but with higher fat content. Cream cheese tends to be tangier than mascarpone, which makes mascarpone a great food to spread. It pairs well on any bread or flat surface, especially when balanced with a sharper taste. A great example is mixing a bit of smoked paprika with some mascarpone and spreading it over a rye bread slice. Topping it with an anchovy fillet will give it a nice bite that balances with the creamy smoothness of the smoky mascarpone. This is a simple but tasty appetizer that will delight any guest or palette.
Mascarpone is still cheese, and whenever people think of cheese, they tend to think of Italian food: pizza, calzone, and pasta. Mascarpone is a great stir-in ingredient that can add smoothness and creaminess to any dish. Take Cacio e Pepe, for example, a classic Italian staple. After making the spaghetti, stir in some mascarpone before adding in the oil, salt, pepper, pecorino, and lemon zest. The mascarpone will add a rich texture and flavor to the pasta, deepening the delicious taste of this simple dish. Adding crispy artichoke hearts will add a tang of acidity that will bring an additional flavor profile that puts this dish over the top.
Baking is also a great way to enjoy the oozy richness of mascarpone, letting the fatty cheese melt and spread its rich flavor. Adding to pizzas while in the oven or tucked into vegetables like eggplant or zucchini will heighten any simple dish. It’s also a great cheese to use in savory tarts, with the tart’s crust helping keep the creamy layer from spilling out. It can even substitute for ricotta cheese in some of the layers of lasagna, adding a rich contrast of flavors to another Italian classic.