Cookbook author Mimi Thorisson is back again. Last we heard from her, she had swept readers away, straight into the culinary pleasures of France in “French Country Cooking.” But now the food writer has arrived with a new cookbook—and country—in tow. This time, she and her photographer husband Oddur Thorisson have traveled to Italy in “Old World Italian,” sharing her journey and dishes with the rest of us—something that feels especially novel and special, given many of us are unable to travel at the moment.
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Although Mimi calls Médoc, France home, for much of the book’s production she transported her family, dogs, and a few good knives to Torino, Italy where she could study regional Italian cooking.
Old World Italian: Recipes and Secrets from Our Travels in Italy: A Cookbook, $26.49 on Amazon
“It was a conscious decision to leave it all behind and start our Italian lives with practically nothing,” Mimi writes in the book. “We preserved, fully intact, the house we had put so much love into, bringing hardly anything but our open minds and empty stomachs.”
Armed with very little, Mimi set off to write and research this book, which proves to be both a space to share the family classics she fell in love with while living in Italy, along with a book where the voices of Italians could be heard, proffering family cooking secrets. In “Old World Italian,” you’ll travel from Tuscany to Naples and Florence, plunging into the country’s diverse regional cuisines. Mimi not only proffers Italian recipes, but also conversations with local food experts who have shared their own techniques, tips, and stories through the lens of Italian food. You’ll learn how to make plump tortellini swimming in broth, asparagus slathered in a buttery parmesan sauce, and branzino baked in a salt crust.
Antimo Caputo Chefs Flour Italian Double Zero 00, $10.99 on Amazon
If you, too, are itching for the Italian plains, there’s no better way to live vicariously than by preparing your own pasta at home. Ahead, Mimi shares a recipe that is the definition of fall: a pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, chestnut, and sage, a bona fide antidote to those hot summer months.
The ravioli requires the pumpkin slices to be roasted in the oven first, then scraped from the rind and mixed with parmesan, nutmeg, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper, creating the filling. While that rests, you can make the egg pasta, a simple entanglement of flour and eggs. The rolled-out and finished sheets of pasta are daubed with a scoop of the filling, then sealed with another sheet of pasta. The ravioli only needs to boil for about two minutes, so prep your sauce beforehand. Simply melt the butter until it foams, adding the sage leaves and chopped chestnuts until coated in the butter. Once your pasta’s boiled, you can add a bit of pasta water to thicken the sauce; you’re looking for a glossy finish that entirely coats each ravioli.
Reprinted from Old World Italian. Copyright © 2020 by Marie-France Thorisson. Photographs copyright © 2020 by Odder Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Chestnut, and Sage Recipe
Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Chestnut, and Sage
- Filling: 1 small pumpkin (1 pound / 450 g)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fine sea salt
- Few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- ⅔ cup / 60 g grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ cup / 75 g plain dried bread crumbs
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pasta: 1½ recipes (see note) basic egg pasta (recipe follows)
- Rice flour, for dusting
- Sauce: 10 tablespoons / 150 g salted butter, cut into cubes
- 15 fresh sage leaves
- 15 chestnuts, cooked, peeled, and coarsely chopped
- Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.
- With a sharp chef ’s knife, cut the pumpkin into vertical slices 1 inch / 2.5 cm thick. Using a large metal spoon, scoop out the seeds and insides of the pumpkin and discard.
- Arrange the pumpkin slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub on both sides of the pumpkin. Season all over with salt, toss with rosemary sprigs, and drizzle with more olive oil. Roast until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh of the pumpkin into a large bowl (discard the skins and rosemary sprigs).
- Add the Parmesan, nutmeg, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine. Set the filling aside.
- Make the pasta: Prepare as directed, divide into two pieces, and roll into two long sheets. Scatter rice flour over a work surface. Place the pasta sheets on the surface. On one sheet, carefully scoop 1 teaspoon filling every 3 to 4 inches / 8 to 10 cm. Drape the second sheet of pasta over the first one, gently pushing around each filling mound with your fingers to seal and remove any air bubbles. Trim each ravioli parcel with a sharp knife or a pasta stamp of your choice to form a neat shape, whether square, oval, or round.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper and scatter a good amount of rice flour on top. Transfer the ravioli to the baking sheet. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and set aside in a cool place until ready to cook.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Drop the ravioli into the boiling water and stir gently. Cook until they float to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a 12- to 14-inch / 30 to 35 cm sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat until it foams. Add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, about 1 minute. Add the chopped chestnuts and toss in the pan so they get coated with the butter. Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta water and shake the pan vigorously to thicken the sauce.
- Scoop out the ravioli with a slotted spoon and transfer to the butter and sage. Toss gently over medium heat to coat the pasta with the sauce. Transfer to plates and grate Parmesan on top before serving.
Basic Egg Pasta Recipe
Basic Egg Pasta
- 3⅓ cups / 400 g tipo “00” flour
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- Rice flour (see note), for dusting
- Mound the “00” flour on a work surface. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, beat the eggs gently together. Slowly incorporate the flour, starting with the inner sides of the well.
- When the dough begins to come together, start kneading using just the palms of your hands with a back and forth motion (the joke is that you should always be able to answer the phone while making pasta!). Use a dough scraper to scrape away any stray bits around the pasta dough, as dried-out dough will interfere with your pasta making. The dough is ready when it is elastic and the surface gently “comes back to you” when pressed, 15 to 30 minutes.
- Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with a lid, a cotton cloth, or a plate. Set aside in the coolest part of your kitchen for 1 hour. (You can also prepare the dough the day before, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Before rolling, bring it back to room temperature.)
- When ready to roll out the dough, dust a work surface and rolling pin lightly with rice flour. Cut off a piece of dough (the equivalent of a handful), press with the palm of your hand onto the work surface, and roll out with the rolling pin to about ½ inch / 1.25 cm thick. Set a pasta machine to its thickest setting and roll the pasta dough through it. Switch the pasta machine to the next thinnest setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Continue switching the settings lower and lower until you get a thin and perfectly smooth sheet of pasta. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Place the pasta sheet on the floured work surface. Cut and/or stuff the pasta according to your liking. The pasta will be fine at room temperature for up to 30 minutes, but if you’re cooking later, cover the pasta with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. You can also freeze individual portions for up to 3 months, making sure they are well wrapped.
Header image by Odder Thorisson.