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Mamma mia! Mascarpone!

by Maria Linardi last modified 2008-06-20 15:12

Add a touch of sophistication to your recipes with mouth-watering mascarpone cheese

Mascarpone!Mascarpone is a pure double-cream cheese made in Northern Italy. It has a creamy texture and a slightly acidic taste, similar to clotted cream or crème fraiche. Although a number of varieties are available abroad none have quite the same exquisite taste and finesse of the freshly made mascarpone you can buy in Italy's many speciality cheese shops.

Originally made in winter (in the days before fridges and coolers) in the areas around Lecco, Como and Lodi in Lombardy, mascarpone takes its name from mascherpa or mascarpia, which is the local term for ricotta. An original translation comes courtesy of Nicola, who when taking his American girlfriend on a trip around the supermarket pointed out 'but big shoe' - ma-scarp-one. You can imagine the confusion that ensued! (Bridget, the said girlfriend, now speaks Italian better than Nicola and makes a tiramisu you could die for.)

MascarponeMade from cream rather than milk, mascarpone lends itself to all sorts of dishes from antipasti to pasta and rice, and from second courses (entrees) to delightful deserts.

Here are two mouth-watering recipes to bring a taste of Italy into your kitchen.

Fettuccine with prawns and mascarpone.
Feeds 6

500 g fresh fettuccine
(if possible choose fresh egg pasta cut into 1cm-thick ribbons)
250 g peeled prawns
250 g fresh mascarpone
half a glass of dry white wine
1 spring onion, chopped
fresh parsley
freshly grated black pepper


Put the prawns, onion and butter in a pan. Heat until the butter turns golden then add the wine. When the wine has evaporated add the parsley and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and blend or mash half of the prawns. Put the prawn mash in a pan with the mascarpone and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Meanwhile cook the fettuccine in salted boiling water until tender. Toss the pasta in the prawn and cream sauce then stir in the reserved prawns. Serve with grated pepper and a bottle of dry white wine such as Bianco secco di Custoza.

Sole with mascarpone
Feeds 4

400 g sole fillets
70 g mascarpone
50 g butter
250 ml milk
1 egg yolk, beaten
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper


Season the fish and cook gently with half the butter and sage leaves. Make a béchamel sauce with the remaining butter, flour and milk. Add the cooled cooking liquid to the white sauce along with the egg yolk and chopped parsley. Now carefully mix in the mascarpone, one spoon at a time along with the lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the fish and reheat if necessary. Serve with a good quality white wine such as Bianco d’Alcamo.

Recipes with mascarpone - - a selection of mascarpone-based recipes from
Make your own mascarpone - - more about mascarpone, including step-by-step instructions on how to make your very own version of this king of cream cheeses.

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