Mascarpone is a luxuriously rich cheese made from cow's milk. It does not have the firm texture you might associate with cheese; you cannot cut slices of it or grate it over pasta. Instead, it's very soft texture resembles a stickier version of sour cream more than a Parmesan or mozzarella. Mascarpone's creamy, buttery flavour works well both in desserts such as tiramisu, a common Italian dessert, and in savoury dishes.
Replacing mascarpone in a recipe can be as simple as substituting an equal amount of cream cheese for the mascarpone. This works best in recipes where the texture of the cheese is relatively unimportant, since cream cheese is firmer than mascarpone. To achieve a more similar texture, allow the cream cheese to warm to room temperature and then whip it in a food processor or by hand until it is softer.
Cream Cheese and Heavy Whipping Cream
Mixing cream cheese with heavy whipping cream will give you a texture similar to mascarpone. Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature, then mix it with cream at a rate of 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream per 227gr. of cream cheese. Whip the mixture in a food processor or by hand until it reaches a consistently smooth texture, then use the mixture in place of mascarpone.
Ricotta works well as a substitute for mascarpone thanks to its soft texture. Ricotta does not have the same sticky creaminess as mascarpone, however, but it is similarly moist. If you go this route, use plain ricotta -- the type you might purchase to add to a lasagne. Ricotta salata is a solid version of the cheese that has a saltier flavour and does not work as well in place of mascarpone.
Ricotta and Heavy Whipping Cream
Because ricotta is somewhat crumblier and less sticky and rich than mascarpone, adding heavy whipping cream can make it a convincing substitute. Place the ricotta in a food processor or large bowl and add heavy whipping cream at a rate of ½ cup of cream per 227gr. of ricotta. Whip the mixture until it reaches a consistently smooth texture, then use in place of mascarpone.