Jun. 29--Eating cheese for dessert is seriously underrated.

For some reason, serving cheese as the final course of a meal hasn't quite caught on this side of the Atlantic. But we are all for it, especially when we can sweeten the deal by transforming this cultured ingredient into a velvety, decadent pudding.

In Northern Italy, balmy summertime dinners can be capped off with crema al mascarpone, a rich yet refreshing chilled cheese dessert. This luscious dish is a custard primarily consisting of sweetened, whipped mascarpone cheese and it's often accompanied by fresh fruit or shaved dark chocolate. We love to sink our spoon into this creamy concoction and we personally prefer to add a citrusy touch to our own batches, incorporating lemon zest into the mascarpone itself as well as a splash of limoncello to its berry topping.

Full disclosure: This dessert does include raw eggs. Please be aware that consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

For the crema al mascarpone:

2 eggs, separated and room temperature

16 oz. mascarpone cheese, divided

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

Zest of 1 lemon

In a mixing bowl, combine egg whites and powdered sugar and whip to stiff peaks. Add a pinch of salt and 8 oz. of the mascarpone cheese. Whip again until combined.

In a separate bowl, whip together the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Combine with the egg white mixture and the remaining mascarpone, and whip everything together until smooth. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

To serve, spoon the crema al mascarpone into cups or ramekins, and top with macerated strawberries (recipe below).

For macerated strawberries:

1 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

1 T. granulated sugar

2 T. limoncello liqueur

In a bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

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