Ricotta VS Mascarpone – 3 Differences & How They Matter

Ricotta and mascarpone are cornerstones of Italian cooking, especially when it comes to dessert. So what do you do when you’ve got a recipe that calls for one, but you’ve only got the other one ? Look up their differences, of course !

Ricotta vs mascarpone is a serious discussion, and which you use has a significant impact on how your dish turns out. As Italian as they may sound, they are not easily substituted for one another, because they do different things. Let’s take a look.

ricotta mascarpone

Ricotta vs mascarpone

Where ricotta is grainy and low in fat, mascarpone is smooth and very high in milkfat. Ricotta is also watery, looser, while mascarpone is dense and creamy. 

Both provide a fresh taste, yet mascarpone is the slightly sweet, very flavorful one. Ricotta is a lighter cheese, and it takes fresh, summery flavors very well. 

To understand all of this better, let’s take a look at just what ricotta is, and what mascarpone is. 

What is ricotta ?

Ricotta is a type of Italian cheese that is traditionally made from leftover whey. This makes is very low in milkfat, and its cheese curds are small, contributing to the grainy feel. There is no real way of making it smooth. 

Traditional vs American ricotta

There are two ricotta types, traditional and American. If you’re reading this from America, then you’re likely using ricotta made from whole milk, instead if whey. This gives it a higher milkfat content (not as much as mascarpone), but it’s constantly stirred to make sure it has that grainy texture, as the curds don’t clump together.

In America traditional whey ricotta is called ricottone, and it may also use skim milk. Most other countries use traditional ricotta. 

Read also: Does Cheesecake Have Cheese ?

What is mascarpone ?

Mascarpone is a soft, spreadable cheese made entirely from cream. This gives it a high amount of milkfat, turning it into a dense, thick, creamy sort of cheese, like cream cheese. The difference is that mascarpone is not salted, and it has so much milkfat you may churn it to make butter. 

This cheese is very heat-sensitive, and it provides a really rich and creamy filling for most desserts. Now let’s compare ricotta and mascarpone on their key elements, so you can see which would be better for your case. 

1. Ricotta has a grainy texture, mascarpone is smooth

If texture is important, then remember that because of the way ricotta is made, it is grainy. American ricotta is smoother, but still grainy, so keep that in mind. Mascarpone is a smooth, creamy cheese and it’s better suited as a cream base.

Which you use depends on what you’re making. As a filling, both ricotta and mascarpone are great. Keep in mind that mascarpone may separate during baking, as it’s high in milkfat. 

2. Mascarpone has a high milkfat content

If the milkfat content matters, then know that mascarpone is the one that will get you that sweet milk flavor. This is especially true if you’re baking with mascarpone. It has a milkfat content is at least 50%.

On the other end, ricotta is lower in fat, between 6 and 11% milkfat. This means it will have a much milder flavor, and it may go better with some flavors, like fruity flavors. 

3. Ricotta has much more moisture

Ricotta is a looser, more watery cheese. This means it will spread more easily than mascarpone, but it may also ruin your dessert if it needs to stay dry. Or, you can use this to your advantage. For example if making a dessert where the layers need to soften, you may use ricotta, since it will seep into the cake layers. 

Conversely, if you’re looking to dress a cake then mascarpone is better, since it will stay put. It’s lower in moisture and high in fat, making it a very dense cream that will clump together if you need it to. 

Can you use ricotta instead of mascarpone ?

No, do not use ricotta instead of mascarpone, or mascarpone instead of ricotta. Ricotta and mascarpone are very different from one another, and they will behave differently in a dessert. 

Ricotta is grainy and has a light, fresh taste. If you’re looking for a decadent flavor then ricotta is not the right choice, go for mascarpone instead. You will also feel the difference in texture between the two. 

Which is better for cheesecake ?

Both ricotta and mascarpone are just as good for cheesecake ! It really depends on what kind of cheesecake you’re making, as in baked or not baked. 

If making a baked cheesecake, ricotta is definitely the way to go, but remember to add more fat like cream or more egg yolks. If you’re not baking the cheesecake, mascarpone works better, and it will be a very dense, creamy kind of cheesecake. Mascarpone sets harder than cream cheese, so keep that in mind.

Neither ricotta nor mascarpone have a cheese flavor to them, and they’re pretty neutral so they can easily be flavored with anything. 

In short, ricotta and mascarpone do things differently, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It simply means you need to know what you want to cook or bake, so you know which to use. 

In cases where you need a smooth, creamy feel go for mascarpone. In cases where you need a lighter, fresher flavor you should opt for ricotta. 

If you’ve got any other food curiosities be sure to check the related articles below, we’re always adding more food facts to make your life that much easier.