As the name suggests, today’s Quattro Formaggi Pizza features four different kinds of cheese. But this classic combo gets a sweet hit from fresh figs and a drizzle of honey. The pizza is finished with a few grinds of black pepper, which gives it wonderful contrast and the barest hint of a burn. What I love most about this pizza is it knocks on the door of nostalgia without giving into it completely. There’s still the grownup sharpness of the gorgonzola alongside the mellow, cheese-pull happy fontina. This pizza is an upgrade on the grade school classic but it’s still a kid at heart. So let’s get into it.
Cheese pizza gets a bad rap, at least in the foodie sphere. All too often plain-Jane cheese pizza gets relegated to children’s parties, maligned at adult gatherings, and dubbed a “guilty pleasure”. But I’m not afraid to admit I like cheese pizza. Yes, I will gladly chow down on a greasy mozzarella-topped slice from whatever pizzeria you happen to have down your street. Why? Because there is something about the simplicity of cheese pizza.
I feel like cheese pizza is much like a chicken nugget. It is endlessly palatable and nostalgic and yet, we don’t want to be associated with it unless it’s been deemed “artisanal” or “fancy”. It’s kind of sad, really, that in our adulthood we have to shun the things we worshipped as kids. And I guess, if I really think about it, today’s Quattro Formaggi pizza adds to this problem by forcing the cheese pizza to grow up and expand its horizons. And part of me feels bad about that. But another, louder part of me really digs blue cheese on pizza.
So let’s talk about that blue cheese. I chose a gorgonzola to keep things Italian. I also have a fondness for particularly creamy blue cheeses and gorgonzola is certainly that. With a punchy blue in the mix, a mellow cheese is important to have as a foil. And I know of no mellower cheese than fresh mozzarella. Plus, it melts like a dream. What more could you want?
Now, for the cheese-pull factor. The slices of my youth often sported low-moisture mozzarella, which is unassuming in terms of flavor but a powerhouse when it comes to melt-ability. But I already have a fresh mozzarella in the mix. And while it does melt well, it lacks elasticity. Enter fontina. Now, fontina has more going on than low-moisture mozzarella. It has a bit more of gouda-y or Swiss personality. But it melts much like mozzarella, so it became my base cheese. The final cheese this pizza boasts is Parmigiano Reggiano. And this bad boy is here to add a little sharpness and funk.
Have you ever ordered a cheese plate for dessert? If you have, I’m going to guess the Quattro Formaggi’s final two pizza toppings make a lot of sense to you. But if you haven’t indulged in a cheese plate post entree, let me tell you what you’re missing. Salty/sweet heaven – that’s what you’re missing. My favorite cheese plate combo has been to be either brie or blue cheese drizzled with honey. It’s like nothing else. This Quattro Formaggi Pizza endeavors to capture that magical flavor combination. And the figs? Well, they’re as pretty and sweet on a pizza as they are on a cheese plate.
Now, before I let you loose on the recipe below, I should warn you I made my own pizza sauce and my own dough. I am a completist in the kitchen, I can’t help it. And yes, it is often a horrible waste of time. If you would prefer to use store-bought sauce and dough, be my guest. But I will say if you do want to go the homemade route, you can make it easier on yourself by making the dough and the sauce a day in advance. Just leave the dough to rise in the fridge overnight, then bring it up to room temperature the next day before forming your pizzas.
Once your dough and sauce are ready to go, you’re just a few swipes of the cheese grater and some light chopping away from dinner. Now, once your pizzas are dressed, you’re going to pop them in a super hot oven. I like to put my pizzas on the lower rack. I find the bottom of the crust browns better that way. And the top of the pizza doesn’t take on too much color before the bottom of my crust is done. But you know your oven best. If you know your lower element is too powerful and will likely burn the bottom of your pizza, put the pie on the middle rack instead. Ovens have just as many quirks as people, it seems.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Quattro Formaggi Pizza. Remember, the measurements of the cheese are just an approximation. You can add more or you can add less. Cheese consumption is rather personal, so listen to your heart and I suppose your common sense.
Quattro Formaggi Pizza with Figs and Honey
- Deep Skillet
- 2 round 12" pizza pans
- Stand mixer with a dough hook
- Immersion blender or food processor
- 1½ cups luke warm water
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes optional
- 1 (796ml, 28 fl oz) can whole tomatoes
- 1½ tsp dried basil
- 1½ tsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
Quattro Formaggi Pizza
- 4 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1 batch pizza dough see above
- 1 batch pizza sauce see above
- 225g (8oz fontina shredded
- 125g (4.5 oz) ball fresh mozzarella sliced and torn
- 100g (3.5 oz) gorgonzola crumbled
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano shredded
- 12 figs sliced
- toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Honey for drizzling
- Fresh ground pepper
For the Dough
- Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water. Give the mixture a quick stir and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.1½ cups luke warm water, 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the olive oil, honey, salt, and two cups of the flour. Mix on low until a loose dough forms. Start adding the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments.**2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp kosher salt, 4½ cups all-purpose flour
- Once the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is slightly tacky to the touch, transfer it to a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. About 7 minutes.
- Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a bowl greased with olive oil. Either let rise at room temperature until doubled in size or transfer to the fridge and let rise overnight. ***
For the Sauce
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until just translucent. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds. Sauté until fragrant, about a minute more.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tsp whole fennel seeds, 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Add the tomatoes and break them up roughly with the back of your spoon. Bring the mixture up to a boil and stir in the basil and oregano. Add the bay leaves and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by half.1½ tsp dried basil, 1½ tsp dried oregano, 1 (796ml, 28 fl oz) can whole tomatoes, 2 bay leaves
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, blitz the sauce until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool completely.
For the Pizza
- Brush two 12" pizza pans with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and set them aside.4 tbsp olive oil
- Punch down the risen pizza dough and divide it into two. Stretch each piece to fit the pizza pans. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30-40 minutes or until slightly puffy. This is a good time to start preheating your oven to 450°F.1 batch pizza dough
- Once the dough is primed, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the pizza shells. Use a pastry brush to ensure the oil is evenly dispersed.4 tbsp olive oil
- Top the pizzas with sauce, fontina, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Sprinkle the crust with sesame seeds and transfer the pizzas to the oven. Place the pizzas on the lower rack and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling.1 batch pizza sauce, 225g (8oz fontina, 125g (4.5 oz) ball fresh mozzarella, 100g (3.5 oz) gorgonzola, ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, toasted sesame seeds
- Take the pizzas out of the oven and let them cool for 10 minutes before topping them with the figs, honey, and black pepper. Slice and serve immediately.12 figs, Honey, Fresh ground pepper