At its base, mascarpone is very simple: it’s a combination of heavy cream and an acid (usually citric, tartaric, vinegar, or citrus juice) that are heated and thickened together, strained through cheesecloth, and left to thicken overnight. There are many recipes online if you’d like to try your hand at homemade mascarpone, but it’s usually readily available at many markets nowadays. It has a very short shelf life and should be used very soon after opening.
Mascarpone is delicious when used in place of ricotta in cannolis and cheesecakes. It can be enjoyed as a thicker, richer “whipped cream” with honey and fruit, it can be used in place of frosting or icing, and it is an amazing option to use in parfaits, pies and tarts, cake batter, and oatmeal. Another common thought about mascarpone, though, is that it’s used exclusively in desserts, but it is actually excellent in savory applications as well. Stir it into mashed potatoes, fill stuffed pastas like ravioli with it, or enjoy it with eggs or as a rich thickener in soups and pastas. The options are endless!