A key ingredient in tiramisu and zabaglione, mascarpone is velvety soft, slightly acidic, and expensive. Mascarpone is milky-white in color and is easy to spread. It is used in various Lombardy dishes, and is considered a specialty in the region. Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century.
The name more than likely is derived from mascarpa, an unrelated milk product made from the whey of stracchino (a young, barely aged cheese), or from mascarpia, a word in the local dialect for ricotta. Others claims the name comes from the Spanish mas que bueno, "better than good." Ricotta, unlike mascarpone, is also made from whey.
Usually sold fresh in tubs, It is one of the main ingredients in the modern Italian dessert known as tiramisu, and is sometimes used instead of butter or Parmesan cheese to thicken and enrich risotto. Mascarpone is also used to produce Italian cheesecakes. It's a highly perishable cheese meant to be consumed as soon as possible after it is made.
Italian cheese made with mascarpone
How to Use Mascarpone
Mix with or as a topping for fruits or berries.
Whipped Cream Substitute, use with a drizzle of honey over ice cream or pie.
Spread on toast with a sprinkle or sea salt or cinnamon/sugar and a drizzle of honey.
Add a dollop on the side of oven roasted, caramelized root vegetables.
Use a sauce for making a White Pizza.
Place a dollop into butternut squash soup along with a tablespoon of cranberry sauce.
Add to your tomato sauce to make a richer, creamier pasta sauce.
Spread some on toast with Nutella.
Mascarpone definitely works on top of a baked potato.
Substitute: Blend 8 ounces softened cream cheese with 1/4 cup whipping cream.
Mascarpone is made from two ingredients... whole cream and citric or tartaric acid (to thicken the cream).
I had a Double-Crust, Stuffed Pizza once... just once. I felt it was way overdone. Too stuffed. Too much dough. Way too much cheese. So, here's Pizza Rustica, or Double Crust Pizza. I think I achieved it. You be the judge.
Many will hear pizza rustica in and think of a pizzagaina, a holiday baked creation that uses eggs and ricotta cheese as the base for the filling baked in either a lasagna pan or a spring-form pan. Some people put in a dozen or more eggs into it! That is a cholesterol nightmare.
I like making my recipes hearty, but healthier (not that this version is diet food). It's just good, home made ingredients in a rustic form. Instead of what can be a couple of pounds of cold cuts (like many use in pizzagaina) I use cut up pieces of cold cut ham or some leftovers... shredded chicken, meatballs (home made) or cooked and crumbled sausage. So, call it Pizza Rustica or Double Crust Pizza or whatever... here it is...
for the Dough
This dough recipe is for one 12-14" pizza -- you need to double the dough recipe for a bottom and top crust. You can make two batches and set them to rise separately, or double the ingredients, making one large batch, but I recommend cutting the ball of dough exactly in half (by weight), re-rolling into balls, and setting them aside separately for the rise.
Yeast: 1 -1/2 cups warm water (115 F) 1 tablespoon instant or rapid rise yeast 1 tablespoon sugar Proof the yeast in a 2 cup measuring cup or something similar. Whisk together the water, sugar and yeast and let foam up for 5-10 minutes.
Dough (The following is for ONE 12-15 inch pizza round. Double the recipe for two dough rounds, or leave as is if you want to make two thinner crusts or a smaller double crust pizza.) 2-1/2 – 2-3/4 cups Bread Flour (I use King Arthur) 1 Teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Put 1 cup flour along with salt and sugar in the bowl of your electric mixer.
Mix dry ingredients momentarily. Add yeast mixture and oil then mix on low speed for a minute or so.
Next add another cup of flour to the bowl and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides periodically as needed.
Then add another ½ cup of flour and mix… Depending on the humidity, the dough should be starting to hang onto the dough hook and separate from the bowl. If it looks very sticky and unformed, add a bit more flour until it starts to cling to the hook. Scraped the sides if needed. The finished dough looks sticky but forms a rough ball.
Turn out onto a floured work surface and fold over far end towards you and push with the heel of your hand away from you… then turn ¼ turn, then repeat… do this about 10-12 times. Add flour on top and to your hands while kneading to prevent sticking.
Tuck in the dough and make a ball shape. Place into a well-oiled bowl (cover with plastic wrap or a damp cotton kitchen towel) for rising—about 1 hour.
After one hour is up, push down the dough gently, cover and place into fridge for another hour.
While your dough is rising, gather your ingredients for the filling together.
Using the ¼ inch holes on a box grater, grate mozzarella (or fontina)--about 2 cups.
For meat, try some diced ham, or leftover meatballs chopped up, or cooked and crumbled sweet sausage.
You can also add caramelized onions, lightly sautéed, sliced garlic (3-4 cloves) to the filling.
Crushed black pitted olives (just squish them between fingers) also work well in this filling.
This pizza recipe is a great way to use up leftovers.
Place your pizza stone on the top oven rack (I recommend a pizza steel for quicker baking and better browning)
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Assembling the Pizza
Take half the dough recipe (remember, you’ve made twice the amount above, one for the top, one for the bottom) and work it into a ball, then shape into a round pizza about 12-14” around. Lightly flour the ball and your hands as you work.
Place this onto a wood or metal pizza peel covered with parchment paper (the paper stays under the pizza as you slide it onto your pizza stone).
Spread some pizza sauce—about ½ cup on the bottom of the first round of dough (you can use jarred or your our recipe). Don’t put any sauce on the last 1” or so of the perimeter, and keep this area free of fillings too.
Now layer on your fillings… meats first, olives, then onions, etc… top it off with the cheese. Retain some cheese for sprinkling across the top crust. Think “stuffed” but not “over-stuffed”.
You can drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the ingredients and sprinkle with oregano or basil.
Shape the second round of dough to the same size. Lay it over the top of the bottom crust and pinch together top and bottom edges, and fold the dough as you would an apple pie. Make sure your pinching is melding the two halves together.
When done, put several small knife cuts around the center of the pizza for steam to escape.
Top off with some of the cheese and perhaps a sprinkling of grated Romano or Parmesan, then some oregano.
Slide the pizza off the peel onto your pizza stone in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until both the bottom and top crusts are well browned.
Check the pizza as it gets near the end of baking. Lift the bottom with a metal spatula to see if the bottom crust is brown. Make sure the top crust is browning equally. If not, you might have to put the oven onto broil for the last minute or two of baking to finish off the top.
If the pizza isn’t browning enough on the bottom, increase the baking time a minute or two at a time. (All ovens are different).
If the top is browning too fast (compared to the bottom), cover with foil for the rest of the baking time.
Baking a double crust pie like this is tricky, so you have to use your own judgment depending on the way your oven browns the crust.
Let this pizza cool down for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting slices. Serve with a green salad and nice bottle of Primativo. If you try this recipe, please leave a comment and let me know how it turned out!
If you want to see my recipe for the holiday favorite, Pizzagaina (aka, pizza rustica), CLICK THE PHOTO...
Have a party to plan for? How about making a bunch of Pizzette--tiny pizzas? They are simple to prepare. Just use any pizza dough recipe, use a round cookie cutter (or a glass) to cut out the small rounds, top with sauce and other favorite toppings (make a lot plain and pepperoni for the kids) and pop them in the oven on large, dark colored sheet pans oiled with light olive oil. Keep a little space between each one. Bake in a preheated 475F oven for 5-7 minutes, or until both the top and bottoms are done.
These little pizzas holdover well. You can make quite a large batch (for a school or church event, for example) and they can even be served Italian style, at room temperature.
Looking for something different for our Saturday Night Pizza, I thought... "Hold the Sauce!" I'll make a white pizza for Lisa and Lucas--"Grandma style" in my large, square, dark pan, cut into square slices.
I lightly drizzled Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the crust, laid out slices of a Yellow Pineapple and Yellow Plum Roma heirloom tomatoes, spread some shredded Fontina and crushed black olives over the top and dusted with fresh, chopped oregano from our spice garden. Another drizzle of EVO and into the oven!
It was amazing. The only thing I would change is NOT drizzling olive oil under the tomatoes. It made them slide a bit when taking bites. I'd put the cheese on the bottom.
Now, you all know that I love pizza. I make a different type every week... pan pizza, thin crust, Chicago deep dish style, focaccia, pizza rustica, double-crust, stuffed crust, heart-shaped, New York style, BBQ pizza, white pizza, Philly tomato pie, my special "Thanksgiving Day Pizza" with turkey, cranberries and stuffing... you name it, I've made it (at least, I think I've made them all). And I've often thought that since pizza is a fairly well balanced food which can be varied a lot by the ingredients you top it with, that I could eat one each day for a year and perhaps lose weight. A home pizza chef can even vary the thickness of the dough--no one wants a heavy pan pizza all the time.
Well, now someone has done it! Brian Northrup from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, ordered and ate one Domino’s pizza for "one leap year"--367 days--and documented the feat on You Tube, Instagram and other social media. And get this: He weighed 6 pounds less than he did when he started! Did he only eat pizza? Apparently, he also chowed down on entire half gallons of ice cream, too.
Honestly, I have an issue with his choice of pizza--Domino's? Ugh. One medium meat-lover's pizza at Domino's is over 2000 calories! If I were to do it I would do eat a wide variety of pizzas... ones that I make at home along with samples from all sorts of pizzerias, restaurants, and perhaps one select fast food chain (I would choose Little Caesar's since they make their dough fresh at each location). I'd enjoy having NY style slices, gourmet individual pizzas at bistros, brick oven pizzas, you name it.
Northrup claims, "I've increased my strength, speed, and (most important to me) my cardiovascular endurance over the course of this endeavor. Also, I haven't been sick for a single day of this experience, nor have I injured myself a single time." Obviously, he worked out at the gym nearly every day and did a lot of cardio workouts. Also obviously, he was not overweight (or over 40) when he started this endeavor.
Although Domino's didn't sponsor his efforts, he did rightfully earn 24 free pizzas during the year from Domino's Loyalty Program. Loyalty indeed!
For more on Brian's adventure with pizza, check out #pizzapocalypse.
Cucina--the Kitchen: Here is where you will find classic Italian recipes, our own family recipes, and stories about the history, techniques, tools and ingredients used in Italian cuisine. We will also include articles that will help you shop and cook in Italy. We are currently re-building our pages, so bear with us. If you can't find a recipe here, use the search (Ricerca) box and you will find what you need. Ciao.