Fresh Mascarpone Cheese

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Making your own mascarpone cheese might be the best mascarpone cheese you’ve ever had.

Fresh Mascarpone Cheese

I met mascarpone later in life. I knew about it, sure. I had witnessed people swooning, waxing poetic over its creaminess and delicate flavor. But I never really understood all the fuss. To me, this cream cheese from the Lombardy region of northern Italy tasted like a pale imitation of the familiar cream cheese of my childhood. Adding to its faults, it was hard to find in my local stores, and I couldn’t figure out why people pronounced as marscapone when it was clearly spelled mascarpone. It all felt a little arrogant.

A few years ago, in an adventurous mood, I decided to give mascarpone another chance. It was popping up on menus more frequently, and was becoming more mainstream. I began with baby steps by tentatively adding a little to a ricotta cake. Success made me bolder as I moved onto gently folding whipped cream into a few tablespoons of mascarpone for a billowy, slightly tangy topping for strawberries. Over time, I tasted the surprisingly discernable differences in flavor and texture among available brands, and slowly fell in love with the nuanced, fresh creamy flavor of mascarpone.

I went further as I began to make my own, and played with labeling ideas as I imagined myself as the newest cream cheesemonger. I found some variations for making mascarpone, but it always involves heavy cream and some kind of simple acid to cause coagulation (thickening) – typically either lemon juice or tartaric acid (not to be confused with cream of tartar powder!).  After some experimenting, I landed on this recipe based on one I recently found in “Artisan Cheese Making at Home” by Mary Karlin. It’s easy to make, and just might be the best mascarpone you’ve ever had. The cream cheese of my youth in its thick foil packaging still has a place in my refrigerator, but these days I reach for this mascarpone first.

mascarpone zested

Easy Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

Adapted  from Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin

Cook’s Notes:

  • Makes 12 ounces of cheese.
  • Takes less than one day to make; but requires an overnight rest in the refrigerator for the best results.
  • Refrigerate what you don’t eat, and use  within a couple of days of making it.
  • There are only four ingredients, so the quality of each ingredient is critical. Go for the best!
  • Avoid heavy whipping cream or heavy cream that is ultra-pasteurized, as it will not thicken or clot into curds well. Avoid heavy cream that has thickeners added, for the same reason. I use Strauss Heavy Cream as it has a wonderfully gentle sweet flavor that shines in the finished product.
  • I use a paper towel for squeezing out excess moisture in the cheese. Butter muslin will work fine too, which is like a tightly woven cheesecloth. Many people recommend several layers of cheesecloth, but I’ve found that the cheese can squeeze through the weave at times when removing the moisture from the cheese.
  • To squeeze out the moisture, I place the mascarpone on a paper towel, draw together the corners and sides of it around the cheese, and very gently squeeze with one hand on the bottom, and one hand holding the edges of the paper towel together on the top. I hold the squeeze for several minutes. At first the paper towel becomes damp. After about 30 seconds, moisture will form droplets on my bottom hand, and will start to drop into a sink or bowl. Once the paper towel rips a little, which eventually it will, you can repeat the process with another towel or two, depending on how thick vs. how creamy you want the cheese.
  • Be careful not to remove too much liquid, or it could be a little too dry and not as flavorful. The consistency should be that of a soft butter or very thick crème fraiche, but it’s really up to you. 


  • 2 cups pasteurized heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (see Cook’s Notes)
  • 1/3 cup powdered non-fat milk
  • 1 lemon, cut in half (you will need both the juice and the zest from the lemon)
  • pinch salt

Making It…

mascarpone ingredients

Set our your equipment and ingredients so that you can focus on the cheese making. The equipment you’ll need is: a non-reactive heavy 2-quart saucepan, a kitchen thermometer; whisk; metal spoon, spatula, and a couple of paper towels.

mascarpone cheese cookingWhisk together the heavy cream and powdered non-fat milk until they’re fairly well mixed. There will be some small lumps left. Place the pot over low heat and slowly bring the cream mixture up to 180°F, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. This will take about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Squeeze the juice from half of the lemon into the cream. Switch to a metal spoon and keep stirring. Using a whisk at this stage will inhibit curd formation. You will not see the clean break of curds and whey that you normally see in making farmer’s cheese or ricotta cheese. It’s a very subtle coagulation that shows up as a thickening of the mixture. As you stir with the metal spoon and remove it, the cream will coat the spoon. You might see some very small flecks of solids in the cream. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the juice of the remaining lemon half and continue to stir, to incorporate it into the cream. Stir for another 2 – 3 minutes, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Keep the lemon halves for zesting into the finished cheese.

Mascarpone from frigThe next morning, remove the mascarpone from the refrigerator. It should be firmed up. Using a spatula, place the mascarpone onto a paper towel.

mascarpone drained

Draw the corners and sides together to form into a ball, and gently squeeze out the excess moisture. This makes the cheese thicker. See Cook’s Notes for more details.

mascarpone with zester

Zest the lemon halves and fold into the cheese along with a pinch of salt. The cheese is now ready to enjoy! It’s great on its own, paired with fresh strawberries, or smeared on dried fruit pieces or fruit gelèe. Dried figs and apricots are wonderful choices. Or, obviously you can use it in baked goods that call for mascarpone or cream cheese.


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  1. Rene says

    How nice of you to share! I’ve been wanting a recipe for home-made mascarpone without really knowing I did, and to get it with all the beautiful photographs is, indeed, a wonderful surprise and treat! Thank you SO much!

  2. says

    Thank you for your excellent and comprehensive instructions, Susan. I made mascarpone about a year ago, and it was a dismal failure. After reading your instructions, I think I did everything wrong that could be done wrong. I feel brave enough to take it on again, so thanks very much!

    • says

      I cannot image you doing anything, particularly in the kitchen, that could ever be a dismal failure, Cynthia! So I say it must have been a fluke. That said, I should add a note to the Cook’s Notes that if for some reason it doesn’t set up, it could be as simple as the fact that the milk is getting old. This is a case of the fresher, the better. I would love to hear how it goes if you try making mascarpone again! It will make you feel like you’re back in Italy again :-)

    • says

      Thanks so much Liz!! When I decided to take on yogurt this year, it opened the door to other cheeses as well that I’ve been wanting to make. So there are more to come as I get them to where I want them :-) So fun!

    • says

      So many of the recipes I looked at and tried were quite a bit more difficult than this one; and it was more difficult in the beginning before I learned some of the tips. I hope you try this Norma – I think you’d really like it!

  3. says

    Fabulous – I’m so glad you’ve discovered the delights of mascarpone! I love making (and eating) ricotta and mascarpone looks like the perfect cheese for me to attempt next. Lovely photos, too!

    • says

      Thanks Hannah :-) I’m hooked now. I’m not sure I’ll be buying any anytime soon now that I’ve seen how easy it is – and I love the flavor of the homemade version way more than the bought. Would love to hear from you if you make it!

  4. Bevi says

    I have to try this, and compare to the product made just down the road apiece. I bet I will say “no contest” in your favor. This will be great with a few desserts I make that use mascaRpone!

    • says

      The cream you use will be the most important ingredient. Get the freshest you can with the least additives – and just make sure it’s not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized is specifically designed to inhibit clotting. Would love to hear how it goes!

  5. FHP says

    Susan I just realized that 11/2 hours have flown by while I delighted in your blog. I’m intrigued to make my own mascarpone and intend to give it a go tomorrow. I would like to make just one little correction at the risk of sounding persnickety and that is that Lombardia is in the north of Italy and is the provence in which Milano is located. Thank You for sharing so many wonderful recipes. FHP


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