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Four Cheese Sauce for Pasta - Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi

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Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi, or Four Cheese Sauce for Pasta: I was recently asked for a four cheeses sauce for pasta. Here are a couple variations on four cheese sauce.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Milk
  • 4 kinds of cheese (see below for specifics)
  • Pasta
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A little white pepper
  • A scant pound (400 g) of pasta -- short shapes work well, and I like farfalle, i.e. bow ties, because creamy sauces adhere well to them

Preparation:

Quattro formaggi generally is milk-based; a container of commercially prepared Salsa ai 4 formaggi I had in the refrigerator said it had Gorgonzola, Fontal (a cheaper relative of Fontina), Grana (close cousin to Parmigiano) and something called Italica, which is new to me. There's also white wine and white pepper.

What I make is quite simple, and generally involves three cheeses rather than four. Once the pasta water comes to a boil add the pasta (a scant pound, or about 400 g for four people), then take about a cup of milk and set it to heat over a moderate flame, adding 2-3 ounces (50-75 g) each of Gorgonzola dolce (the mild, creamy Gorgonzola, not the sharp variety that resembles Roquefort) and Fontina. Stir constantly because the cheeses will settle, melt over the bottom of the pan, and burn if you don't. Add a pinch or more of white pepper to taste, and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg if you like it.

When the pasta is just shy of being done, drain it. Transfer it to a skillet, stir in the sauce, and 3/4 cup (35g) freshly grated Parmigiano (if I have Pecorino Romano I will add a half cup (25 g) of it too), and cook over a brisk flame, moving the skillet as you would if you were making an omelet to toss the pasta. Once most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is cooked, serve.

Reading the ingredients of the commercial sauce in the refrigerator makes me wonder what adding a quarter cup of white wine to the sauce just before tossing the pasta would be like. Something to try the next time I make it from scratch.

Fernanda Gosetti, on the other hand, suggests:

  • 3/4 cup (150 g) unsalted butter warm enough to be quite soft
  • 1/3 pound (150 g) soft Grana Padano or Parmigiano
  • 3 ounces (75 g) Gruyere
  • 3 ounces Edam (75 g; a Dutch cheese)
  • 3 ounces (75 g) mozzarella
  • Freshly grated black or preferably white pepper to taste


While the pasta water is heating grate half the Grana and cut the other half and the other cheeses into thin strips. When the water comes to a boil salt it and cook the pasta; a minute or so before the pasta is done swirl a ladle of boiling pasta water in the serving bowl to heat it, and dump it out.

Drain the pasta and turn it into the heated bowl with the strips of cheese the butter, and grated pepper to taste. Stir to melt the everything and distribute the cheeses evenly, and just before serving sprinkle the grated Grana over all.

One could do worse, though I'm not sure why she uses Edam. I might go with Fontina instead, and you're of course free to use what cheeses you like.

Yield: 4 servings pasta ai quattro formaggi, pasta with four cheese sauce.

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