Mascarpone is essentially an Italian version of cream cheese, though with a slightly higher fat content; mascarpone must have 40% fat while cream cheese only needs to have 33% fat. Cream cheese is also tangier than mascarpone, which tends towards the richer side of things. In fact, mascarpone most closely resembles French crème fraîche. Both are soured by lactic culture, but mascarpone is a little sweeter and milder.
All this to say, mascarpone is a lot more versatile than we give it credit for. It works quite well in both sweet and savory dishes. It's also surprisingly easy to make, so you don't even need to run out to a specialty grocery store to track some down.
Here are 5 ways to use mascarpone’s ultra-creaminess to make your savory meals surprisingly rich—with very minimal effort.
1. Smear it
Use mascarpone on a bagel in lieu of cream cheese for a next-level smoked salmon supreme, or spread it on seedy rye toast to make open-faced sandwiches. Some topping suggestions:
- Smoked trout and pickled red onions
- Cucumbers, salt, and sesame seeds
- Roasted or sautéed mushrooms (or any leftover roasted vegetables hanging in your fridge)
- Thinly shaved asparagus and lemon juice
2. Soup it.
Add it to freehand puréed vegetable soups to make them maximum rich with minimum work. Good news: just a spoonful will go a long way here. Or use mascarpone as a creamy garnish to cool the heat of spicy tomato soup and add a creamy touch to summery gazpachos. Bonus: it looks super pretty when you swirl it in with your spoon.
3. Spread it
Spread it onto pizza in lieu of tomato sauce, or dollop small spoonfuls onto just-out-of-the-oven ‘za for creamy, melty pockets sort of like the inside of burrata. May I suggest dolloping some onto a margherita to make it uber fancy, or spreading thinly onto sough and topping it with shaved summer squash and mint?
Mascarpone also works very well as a creamy layer in savory tarts, especially if those tarts involve blistered vegetables like eggplant and zucchini and lots of herbs. Or juicy tomatoes. Or incorporate it into a gratin, especially if that gratin containers cauliflower or hearty greens. Just spread a little between the vegetable layers with a spoon, or else dollop in on top.
4. Scramble it
Add mascarpone to your scrambled eggs. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but it will make them incredibly rich and special and so much better than your average Wednesday morning scramble, even though they take no extra time. Merrill likes to whip mascarpone into her eggs pre-scramble, but I like to add it halfway through the cook time so that I come across melty cheese pockets mid-bite. (Side note: melty cheese pockets would be a great band name.] If you're feeling fancy, you can also use a swipe of mascarpone as a filling for an omelet, especially if there are already some peas and chives or mint involved.
5. Stir it
When stirred into risottos and pastas just before serving, mascarpone melts into the most silky, luxurious 1-ingredient sauce. You can even stir a few spoonfuls to finish grits or polenta for an extra creamy touch. Try adding it to nutty cauliflower risotto, using it in place of cream for a springy green pasta, or incorporating it into your next baked noodle creation.
I usually like to keep things simple, tossing my pasta of choice with some olive oil, garlic, and herbs in a pan with a little pasta water, maybe adding in some vegetables. Once a glossy sauce develops, I'll add in a few spoonfuls of mascarpone and let it melt, coating each noodle in a creamy sauce that's slightly sweet and nutty and pretty much begging to be covered in more herbs and a grating of Parmesan. It's also excellent stirred into a simple tomato sauce, and will stretch and enhance a pesto like nobody's business.
Asparagus, treated right. This pasta dish—any curly, short shape does the trick—features a whole pound of greenery. Lemony mascarpone melts into an effortless sauce, while toasted hazelnuts add crunch.
Like a fresh fruit tart, but savory. Multihued heirloom tomatoes take center stage here, supported by a lush, creamy bed of mascarpone. Serve with the emerald green basil oil alongside, so everyone can drizzle (and keep drizzling) as they eat.
A very good thing to do with your air fryer: Combine mushrooms with onion, garlic, cream, and, of course, mascarpone, then let the appliance do its magic. The result is a creamy, vegetarian pasta sauce to repeat whenever you need something cozy.
Is there anything more refreshing than a chilly bowl of soup on a scorching summer day? We think not. This one is all about beets—a root vegetable that’s as earthy as it gets. Mascarpone adds some much-needed creaminess—the extra dollop on top is optional but, you know, not really.
Another mascarpone-sauced pasta with mushrooms because the combo is just that good. This recipe leans on marsala, a fortified Italian wine that’s always happy to help out with dinner. Feel free to increase the parsley to sight—its brightness is a breezy respite from all the richness.
Sweet pears, salty prosciutto, and sharp red onion sound A++ on their own. But then you add in a buttery, crumbly tart crust and mascarpone mixed with herbs de Provence (an aromatic French spice blend often made with thyme, basil, rosemary, marjoram, and tarragon, depending on the recipe). Oh yes.