(serves 4 full portions)
Quattro Formaggi, the ultimate cheese lover’s (and vegetarian’s) pasta dish. Its deceptively plain appearance hides a treasure trove of flavour within. No meat or vegetables are used in its preparation, and all you need is a carefully chosen blend of four cheeses (that’s what Quattro Formaggi means) in a creamy sauce to please the palate. My recipe is easy to remember, 400g of cheese plus 400g of pasta plus 400ml of milk & sake. The four cheeses I use are common varieties: Roquefort, Gruyere, Edam and Parmigiano.
- Roquefort (150g)
- Gruyere (100g)
- Edam (100g)
- Parmigiano Reggiano (50g)
- Linguini (400g)
- Milk (300ml)
- Sake (100ml)
- Onion (1/2)
- Almonds (1/2 cup)
- Chopped Parsley (3T)
- Coriander Seed Powder
- White Pepper
- Remove the wax rind of the Edam and then cut both the Edam and Gruyere into 1cm cubes. Grate the parmigiano coarsely.The Roquefort will fall apart easily, so there is no need to do anything to it. Do this ahead of time and leave the cheese to warm to room temperature.
- Smash your almonds in a clear plastic bag using a meat mallet.
- Boil a pot of water for the pasta, with 1t of salt and a knob of butter.
- Julienne half an onion and pan fry with a dash of oil in a large saucepan until the begin to caramelize.
- Add 300 ml of milk and bring to a low simmer. Melt the Gruyere and Edam in the cream first, stirring frequently to prevent clumping. When those two cheeses have melted, add the remaining two cheeses followed by the sake. For seasoning, add 1t honey, 1t nutmeg, 1t coriander seed powder, 1/2 t white pepper and 2T chopped parsley.
- Simmer for a minute or two until the sauce is at the right consistency. It doesn’t have to be too thick as it will thicken as it cools. For most sauces you will add salt at the end but since cheese is salty, you will add sugar instead. Sprinkle on a bit at a time till you think the taste is right. The amount will depend on the types of cheeses you used.
- Boil the linguini till it is semi-soft. Drain and then add the pasta to the saucepan. Reheat while tossing the pasta in the cheese sauce til the pasta is al dente. You may need to add a bit of water if the sauce begins to dry up too much before the pasta gets soft enough.
- Plate the pasta. Sprinkle on the remaining 1T of parsley plus 2T of almond bits per plate.
- There are some websites that tell you you can use any 4 types of cheese you like. I disagree. You can swap in other cheeses but you have to replace each cheese with one of the same type. Its always 150g blue cheese, 100g each of melting and medium cheeses and 50g of grating cheese. The traditional Italian lineup would probably be gorgonzola + mozeralla + fontina + pecorino romano. You can check out what the alternatives are in my Cheese Page.
- The cheese must be allowed to warm to room temperature or there is a chance some types won’t melt but become stringy instead.
- The easiest way to get the right weight of each type of cheese is to look at the total weight of each package and cut out the appropriate portion by volume. There’s no need to actually weigh the cheese.
- Nuts are one of the natural complimentary foods to cheese. I introduced some to provide added texture to the bite and to add a new layer of flavour. Even so, make sure you use meaty dishes for other courses to balance out the meal. You can also use half portions as appetizers.
- White wine is usually added in this sauce but if sake was invented in Italy, I’m sure the originators of quattro formaggi would have used sake. Many types of white wine can make the sauce taste unnecessarily sour. I have tried many different types of alcohol and I’ve found that sake adulterates the taste of the cheeses the least.