The rich Italian cheese known as mascarpone adds velvety richness to risotto, manicotti and other main dishes, and it's the star of the Italian dessert tiramisu. Mascarpone orginally came from an area west and south of Milan, during the 16th and 17th centuries. Some say the name is a derivation of "mas que bueno," Spanish for "better than good." Those concerned about fat in their diet can use a healthier substitutes for mascarpone in recipes.
Mascarpone is 47 percent fat. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 35 percent of your daily calories come from fat, so if you eat a big piece of tiramisu, you could blow that proportion in one sitting. One hundred grams of mascarpone, or about 3 1/2 oz., contains 453 calories, another diet-blower.
Low-fat cream cheese such as neufchatel makes an acceptable substitute for mascarpone in some recipes. Mix with low-fat sour cream until you achieve a creamy consistency. Don't use non-fat cream cheese, as this won't achieve a creamy consistency and can add an off taste to some dishes. Neufchatel cheese has approximately 74 calories per ounce and is 31 percent fat. Light sour cream has 40 calories in 2 tbsp. and is 14 percent fat.
If you want the creamy taste of real mascarpone, you could make the dish healthier by using less of it. Tiramisu with a thinner layer of cheese filling still tastes good. In dishes such as lasagna, use more sauce and less cheese. Or make the original recipe and eat a smaller serving. The satisfaction of eating less of the real thing might be greater than eating a larger serving of a substitute.
Instead of Mascarpone
In casseroles, where the flavor and texture of your substitute need not be identical to genuine mascarpone, you could substitute cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, both of which are available in lower-fat varieties. Low-fat sour cream might also work in some dishes. Experiment with tastes and textures that suit you.