In the cheese world, fresh cheeses—those that are unripened and can be made in just a couple of days—are a large and diverse group. You’re probably already familiar with the subtle and delicate flavors of mainstream fresh cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, and fresh goat cheese, but there are others out there worth getting to know. Here are three versatile, alternative varieties that you may never have tried before.
Queso fresco, a Mexican pressed cheese originally made from goat’s milk, is now more widely produced from cow’s milk. Used generously in Mexican cuisine, it’s quite salty and crumbly. Crumble it over huevos rancheros, tortilla soup, black beans, or your favorite tacos.
Farmer cheese is pressed cottage cheese, and as a result is drier and holds a shape (often rectangular) but is still spreadable. Made from cow’s milk, it’s lightly salted and has a slightly coarse texture and a very mild tanginess. Commonly used in pierogies, blintzes, and cheesecake, farmer cheese adds richness to Peppery Egg Noodle & Cauliflower Gratin.
Mascarpone is a thick and buttery double- to triple-cream cow’s milk cheese (containing over 60% and often over 75% milk fat). It’s slightly sweet with a faint yellow hue and spans dishes from starters to sweets. Try mixing mascarpone into pasta with asparagus and mushrooms, or fold it into polenta. For simple desserts, serve mascarpone with fresh figs, pears, or berries, or dollop a spoonful alongside fruit pies or tarts.