HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Quattro Formaggi, ANY four cheeses?

I was just wondering if anyone else is a bit ticked off by resturaunts (particualry pizza parlors) who offer pizza described as Quattro formaggi which consist of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan and a foruth cheese that is NOT gorgonzola. Yes I know its ligusically correct to call such a pizza four cheese but to me quattro Formaggi isn't quatro formaggia if it has no gorgonzola. Plus most of those forth cheeses are insipid choices like romano (okay I guess) provolone (so-so) or shapr cheddar (ick) I even once live near a greek/italain resutruant that used feta (ugh?) so what does anyone else think on the subject?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I would find good Italian Fontina to be acceptable.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pikawicca

      i prefer that mix (can't stand gorgonzola), or romano instead of fontina.

    2. I've actually never had a quattro formaggi with ricotta.

      1. I've seen the following:
        Smoked mozz
        Gorgonzola Dolce
        Parmigiano/Romano mix

        I don't know what that says other than the cheeses are all more or less Italian. As for cheddar - I think I'd walk out if I saw that.

        1. I've never had quattro fromaggi anything with gorgonzola.

          1. I've never had gorgonzola in this quatro formaggio formation. I didn't know there was a rule of which cheeses to use.

            1. I've only had a couple quattro formaggi pizze in my life. Once from a place out of Boston, and also from a place outside of New Haven, CT. While I can't pinpoint exactly what the 4th cheese was, as you were saying, I am certain both these places used Mozzarella, Ricotta, and then from there I am at a loss. I'm almost certain neither place used Gorgonzola, because I know I would have tasted it. It was probably Parmesan and something else. So in my mind, Gorgonzola doesn't have to be one of the 4 cheeses, as both these places made OUTSTANDING pies... but I don't like the ambiguity either, it's like they're trying to hide some of the cheeses from you out of shame (because they're cheaper).

              1. Our major national chain, Pizza Express, uses mozzarella, gorgonzola, gran padano and fontal.

                1. So long as all 4 cheeses are Italian - anything goes. Gorgonzola is definitely NOT required.

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    You'd think that would be the case, but here's the description for Dr. Oetker's Pizza Quattro Formaggi: "A delicious blend of mozzarella, Edam, Emmenthal and blue cheese." The blue cheese is almost certainly not Italian (or they would say what it is), so they're batting one for four.

                    I don't think that "quattro formaggi" has any tradition behind it. If I had to guess, I would say that the term is popular primarily outside of Italy. It reinforces the typically American viewpoint that more is better. If one cheese is good, then imagine how wonderful four cheeses must be! I think a cook is free to choose any four (usually Italian or Italian-style) cheeses that work well in the particular dish being made.

                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                      Actually quattro formaggi is found in Italy, but not on the classiest menus. Pizza and pasta, or more usually gnocchi. I'm not sure what the cheese are, but I can tell you ricotta is not a cheese. It's a latticino. Also mozzarella. Kyle Phillips on about.com, who is a reliable smart guy, discusses the four cheeses. http://italianfood.about.com/od/cream...
                      Usually nobody makes it. It's a thing you buy in a jar in mega supermarkets and bears no relation to actual Italian cooking.

                      1. re: mbfant

                        There's room for argument about whether ricotta is properly called a cheese or a latticino (a by-product of some other product made from milk). Cheese results from the coagulation of milk protein. That protein is normally casein. When the whey separates out, it also contains proteins--albumin and others. Classic ricotta is made by coagulating the proteins in the whey left over from (other) cheese production. So if one's definition of cheese simply involves coagulating protein found in milk, then ricotta is properly considered a cheese. If one adheres to the stricter definition that the major protein involved must be casein, then perhaps one wouldn't call ricotta a cheese. As far as I'm concerned, it's an academic argument.

                        However, mozzarella is definitely a cheese and belongs to the category of cheeses known as "pasta filata." What makes you think it isn't?

                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                          As far as ricotta is concerned, I know only that it is considered a latticino, even though that may be analogous to tomato being considered a vegetable. As you say, an academic argument. I operate here on the street.
                          I actually never thought about mozzarella's status and am happy to be enlightened. It is of course pasta filata, but is fresh and always sold with latticini. Where do you draw the line between a fresh cheese and a latticino?

                          1. re: mbfant

                            The word "latticino" isn't used much outside of Italy. I was somewhat familiar with it, but I suspect that most Americans, even cheese professionals, would be hard pressed to define it. To answer your question, I decided to go to some Italian sources. A dictionary definition of latticino:

                            "Alimento derivato dal latte, come panna, ricotta, burro, ecc." Food derived from milk, such as cream, ricotta, butter, etc. (My translation) A rendering of the word into English would be "milk product."

                            I consulted several other Italian sources that went into greater length about latticino. One notes that cheese (any kind of cheese) fits within the broad definition of latticino. Another source states that the term is most often used for fresh milk products, rather than aged ones, but that there is no strict, universally accepted definition of the word. In this sense, mozzarella could be called a latticino, but an aged cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano wouldn't be.

                            Formaggio and latticino are not mutually exclusive categories. Mozzarella is both a fresh cheese and a latticino.

                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                              I always think of formaggio as something that comes in a forma, like parmigiano-reggiano. that lets out mozzarella, which I don't think anybody in Italy thinks of as a cheese, but I will start paying attention and will ask the Volpetti brothers whether they consider it a cheese or a formaggio. Then there is cacio, which it certainly isn't. Shops that sell latticini, which I always translate dairy products, but perhaps that's wrong, sell ricotta and mozzarella and a few pallid caciotte. In my (considerable) experience, dictionaries are the last place to find reliable food definitions. There may be some legal or semilegal definition somewhere, however. I'm delivering a manuscript Friday, so don't want to start looking things up, but will make this one of my post-partum projects for next week.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                but on the flip side, what about Ricotta Salata? That is most definitely aged, but it also starts as non-casein ricotta? or, if mozzarella isnt cheese, then what about scamorza or provolone (both of which basically start as mozarella and then have things done to them to turn them into other things)

                                1. re: mbfant

                                  I see nothing wrong with the particular definition of latticino that I cited. Not everything found in a dictionary is inaccurate. Moreover, I said that I consulted several other more detailed Italian sources on latticino.

                                  I'm not sure what you are writing about or who your readers are, but if they aren't Italian cognoscenti, I fear that you run the risk of creating confusion. In the US, most people consider mozzarella a cheese, including people who are knowledgeable about cheese like me. While "formaggio" comes from the Latin "formaticum" and ultimately from "forma" (the mold in which cheese curds are placed and which gives a cheese its final shape), few people today are conscious of that fact and even those who are do not base their judgment of whether something qualifies as a cheese purely on whether it was put into a mold. Perhaps if I knew the reason for your needing to make all of these distinctions, I would better understand why you see them as important, but I think I'll bow out of the discussion now.

                        2. re: cheesemaestro

                          I wouldn't expect a German company, such as Dr Oetker, to necessarly adhere to traditional flavours - noting that, as well as the indeterminate blue cheese, they're also using a Dutch Edam and a Swiss Emmenthal.

                          That said, their UK website indicates the blue cheese is Gorgonzola here (as well as the Edam, Emmenthal and mozzarella)

                          1. re: Harters

                            At least it's two out of four (Italian cheeses) for Dr. Oetker in the UK. Curiously, Kyle Phillips, in his recipe for pasta quattro formaggi (see mbfant's link to the recipe several posts earlier in this thread), uses Gruyère and Edam--similar to what Dr. Oetker puts on its pizza.

                            Although we might say that it's best to stick to Italian cheeses in a dish called "quattro formaggi," I don't see any evidence here or elsewhere that there is enough tradition behind this term to determine which cheeses are "authentic" and which are not.

                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                              Assuming that we are going to conclude that "quattro formaggi" is an "authentic" Italian pizza, then the "authentic" cheeses would be whatever was readily to hand.

                              Doncha just hate the word "authentic" when its applied to food? Irritates me almost as much as "fine dining" for being totally meaningless.

                              1. re: Harters

                                Right, and add "artisanal" to the list of terms that have become meaningless. These days, everything is described as artisanal. Dunkin' Donuts, an American company with several thousand outlets worldwide, proclaims that its sells "artisanal bagels." Gimme a break!

                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                  But what are you going to call foods that are actually authentic, in the sense of respectful of tradition, and artisanal, in the sense of not large-scale industrial?

                                  1. re: mbfant

                                    Certainly, there is a proper use of the word "artisanal." It applies to something made by an artisan, which further implies that it is made by a single entity at a single location and is usually hand-made. There are many cheeses and other foods that could correctly be called artisanal. Unfortunately, the word has been appropriated by organizations large and small and slapped on foods that don't even begin to meet the definition.

                                    1. re: mbfant

                                      Call them by their name. I don't need to have the word "authentic" to define it.

                            2. re: cheesemaestro

                              "It reinforces the typically American viewpoint that more is better. If one cheese is good, then imagine how wonderful four cheeses must be!"

                              Or it could be that we like variety, or even the taste of the blended cheeses.

                            3. What about pasta quattro formaggi? I wonder if there's a rule for that sauce?

                              My recipe includes gorgonzola.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Uh - that's what we're discussing here. The sauce. That's what the dish is all about. Without the sauce, "Pasta Quattro Formaggi" doesn't make any sense.

                                And as has been stated - your recipe or not - not all recipes for it include Gorgonzola. It's not an automatic given or neccesity.

                                1. re: Bacardi1

                                  "Uh - that's what we're discussing here. The sauce. That's what the dish is all about. Without the sauce, "Pasta Quattro Formaggi" doesn't make any sense."

                                  We were discussing pizza toppings. Then PK brought up the sauce.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    Sorry - my fault - got caught up in the pasta mindset. I apologize.

                                  2. re: Bacardi1

                                    Heh heh. Where did I say all recipes include gorgonzola?

                                2. To the OP:

                                  Maybe the pizza parlors you frequent the most and like the best used gorgonzola and you expect if everywhere? I really do not think there is a set rule as to what cheeses go into a "quattro formaggi."

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    That sounds reasonable, though I actually haven't had a quattro formagii pizza in a long time or the sauce. Part of the reason I am so comitted to Gorgonzola is that it is the one thing that, in my opinion makes the taste distictive. The other three common ones, mozarella, parmesean/romano and ricotta are things that are sort of are on ALL pizzas (well ricotta is if you order a lot of white pizzas) so take away the gorgonzola and the Quatro Formaggi isn't really all that different from a plain cheese. I was young, callow and new to the forum when I started the thread, I assumed that, becuse most of the Quattro formagii products I had eaten had gorgonzola, that that was part of the rules, and it annoyed me when it was not there, especially when the replacement cheese was one I really though had no business on pizza, like cheddar or feta.
                                    Actually my gourment side has and idea, I wonder how Quattro Formagii pizza would turn out if the fouth Italian cheese was Tallegio.

                                    1. re: jumpingmonk

                                      The 4-cheese pizzas I've had nearly always have mozzarella, parmesan/romano, & ricotta, with the fourth a tossup between Gorgonzola, Feta, or Fontina. All have worked well, but in the cases of Gorgonzola & Feta, they have to be lighter in quantity, otherwise their flavors take over the whole pie.