icon Pizza Quattro Stagioni
Pizza certainly needs no introduction. Modern pizza originated in Naples in the 19th century, and spread to many different parts of the world. It arrived in America in the early 1900s in New York. Lombardi's was the first pizzeria to open in New York in 1905. New York style pizza has a very thick outer crust and a thin middle. It often has a rectangular shape. New York style pizza dough is made from a high-gluten bread flour, hand-tossed and light on sauce. The cruust is the most notable difference between New York style and other American pizzas. Chicago-style pizza is a deep-dish pizza with buttery crust up to three inches tall at the edge, slightly higher than the large amounts of cheese and chunky tomato sauce, acting as a large bowl.

What most of the world understands under the traditional Italian recipe is Pizza Napoletana. The actual legal definition by the European Union is "a food preparation made from a base of risen dough and cooked in a wood fire oven. ... The products that provide the base for Pizza Napoletana include wheat flour type "00" with the addition of flour type "0", yeast, water, peeled tomatoes, marine salt, and extra virgin olive oil."

However, even Italy is not the original birthplace of pizza. Neapolitan pizza evolved from someeting much older. The Ancient Greeks covered their bread with oils, herbs and cheese. Later, the Romans developed placenta, a sheet of flour topped with cheese and honey and flavored with bay leaves. Modern pizza developed from these foundations as a pie with tomato and after 1889 also with cheese. In 1889, during a visit in Naples, Queen Margherita of Savoy was served a pizza consisting of tomatoes, mozarella and basil, resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). This recipe was not only named after her, but has served as the foundation for other pizzas as well.

At the heart of Neapolitan pizza are its 3 basic ingredients: thin crust, fresh tomato sauce and buffalo-milk mozzarella. Other toppings are added, and the combinations define several traditional, even legally defined, recipes:

  • Pizza Margherita (3 colors of the Italian flag: red - chopped tomatoes, white - mozzarella, green - fresh basil leaves).
  • Pizza Marinara (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, 2+ cloves garlic, oregano).
  • Pizza Napoletana (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, pickled capers, oregano).
  • Pizza al Prosciutto (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, sliced cooked ham, mozzarella).
  • Pizza Prosciutto e Funghi (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, sliced Champignon mushrooms, sliced ham, mozzarella).
  • Pizza Quattro Stagioni (the four seasons or 4 pizas in 1: the same ingredients as Capricciosa but not mixed together).
  • Pizza ai Quattro Formaggi (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and even amounts of shredded pecorino, gorgonzola, groviera (Swiss Cheese), and fontina or asiago).
  • Pizza alla Bismark (a pizza with a sunny-side-up egg cracked over it).
  • Pizza Vegetariana (tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, stewed peppers, stewed eggplant, artichoke hearts, spinach)
  • Pizza Capricciosa (usually the richest pizza offered, and every pizzaiolo makes it differently. Some typical ingredients are tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, sliced sausage, salami and ham, artichoke hearts, olives etc.
  • Ripieno or Calzone (a turnover-style pizza filled with several ingredients, such as ricotta, salami and mozzarella).
Mozarella needs to be the kind made from the milk of water buffalo (Mozzarella di bufala). It comes rolled in the shape of a ball of 80 to 100 grams, or 2-3 inches in diameter. (Keep in mind that the stuff Kraft Foods sells in the grocery store in the milk aisle is not Mozarella.) Mozzarella di bufala campana is a particular type of mozzarella, made from buffalo milk from designated areas of Lazio and Campania. Assuming that this is generally not available outside of Italy, any fresh buffalo mozzarella will do. Fior di latte is a mozzarella made from cow's milk and would work if nothing else is available. The deli section in most American supermarkets do have buffalo mozarella.

Parmesan cheese needs to be Parmigiano-Reggiano made in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and Bologna. This should be readily available.



As far as tomatoes are concerned, "tomatoes on the vine" are ripened and harvested with the fruits still connected to a piece of vine, have far more flavor than artificially ripened tomatoes that merely imrpve someone's corporate profit. Yet, even vine-ripened tomatoes may not be the equal of local garden produce. If using canned, the best choice is Italian San Marzano tomatoes from Campania. This tomato is prized for its tart flavor, firm pulp, red color, low seed-count and easily removable skin. There are online stores that carry this.

The choice of flour is critical in a pizza. Italian recipes call for Tipo 0 mixed with Tipo 00, which describes how finely the flour is milled. Tipo 00 is more fine than Tipo 0 and can be used to make different types of bread, cookies and pastries, as well as pizza. Tipo 00 pizza flour has a gluten content of 6-12%. (There is also Tipo 00 pastry flour, which is very light light and has much lower gluten content, which is not good for pizza.) The best Italian pizza flour comes from Molino Caputo. It has 11.5-12.5% gluten and is selected and milled to make perfect Pizza Napoletana. When using domestic American flour, the best results are achieved by using a blend of high quality bread flour, with 14-15% gluten, and general purpose flour. General purpose flour by itself would make a dough that is light and delicate, but would make the pizza soft and saggy. It would not have the right crunch of the crust and the rich texture. Thus, the bread flour has to be added.

Making any pizza is fun. But for a true fan of Italian flavor, the following Quattro Stagioni recipe will be absolutely special. Quattro Stagioni is a unique recipe and one of the most famous Italian pizzas. The pizza is divided into 4 quadrants representing the 4 seasons of the year, and topped with different ingredients typical for each season (i.e. winter: anchovies, garlic, olives, parsley; spring: calamata olives, capers and red pepper flakes; summer: fresh tomatoes and fresh herbs; fall: mushrooms and onion.

Classic pizza dough

  • 3 1/2 cups flour (Tipo 00 if you can find Italian flour; if not, unbleached bread flour and general-purpose flour)
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

Pizza Quattro Stagioni

  • Base:
    • 1 cup buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • 1 cup tomato sauce
    • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Spring:
    • 1/4 cup Italian calamata olives, pits removed, rinsed and dried well
    • 20 capers, rinsed and dried well
  • Summer:
    • 2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
    • Fresh herbs (at least 4 different kinds i.e. parsley, oregano, basil, thyme), chopped or torn plus whole sprigs for garnish
    • Fresh Basil leaves, whole
  • Fall:
    • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • Winter:
    • Fresh parsley, chopped
    • 8 anchovies, rinsed well and dried
    • 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped


Classic pizza dough

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water, and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles in about 5 minutes.
  2. Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Mold the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center.
  3. Pour in the center the yeast mix, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough.
  4. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the dough on the floured surface.
  5. Knead the dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour, and until it no longer sticking to your hands.
  6. With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl. On the top of the dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
  8. When the dough is double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles. On a lightly floured work surface, cut one-fourth of the dough adn set it aside. Cut the rest of the dough into three equal pieces.
  9. On the work surface, using a rolling pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin round layer. Make a thin pizza about 12 inches in diameter.

Pizza Quattro Stagioni

  1. Assuming that most households do not have a wood-burning over in the kitche, preheat electric oven to 500 deg F.
  2. Place the dough on a pizza peel generously sprinkled with flour or on a lightly oiled pizza screen.
  3. Brush the dough all over with olive oil. Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the outer rim exposed, spread the tomato sauce onto the pizza and top with the parmesan cheese. Spread the mozzarella on each section except for the section with seafood, adding a little more parmesan instead.
  4. Divide the reserved dough onto 2 pieces and with palms of hands roll each piece into a ball and then into a cylinder about 1/3 inch in diameter. Holding the cylinder at each end, twist in opposite directions to resemble a rope. Place the 2 cylinders at right angles across the pizza crust to form even quarters.
  5. Leaving the dough ropes exposed, fill each quadrant with the ingredients for each season, as specified.
  6. Sprinkle the garlic over all the sections, add salt to taste, and drizzle evenly with olive oil.
  7. Transfer the pizza to the preheated baking surface and bake until the crust is golden brown and puffy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to a cutting tray or board and lightly brush the crust with olive oil. Sprinkle each section with one type minced herb and garnish with a sprig of the same herb. Slice and serve immediately.

back to Radim and Lisa's Well-Travelled Cookbook | email us

Last updated: October 12, 2010