What was the first thing that Mimi Thorisson did when she upped sticks with her husband and eight children from the vineyards of Médoc, France, to the piazzas of Torino? “I got myself a pasta coach,” she laughs. Of course: what else would a celebrated food blogger, television chef and queen of rustic cookbooks have top of her list. “A lady where I buy my pasta in Torino does classes for children, these little five year olds. I enrolled my daughters and then enrolled myself. It’s like a gym, it’s very physical work.” The best lesson of pasta school? “Don’t roll your pasta on a marble surface. You need to have a wooden pasta board, which holds the pasta as it’s porous and has the best temperature for rolling as well.”
The bustling capital of Piedmont, Torino, came calling after nine years of living a countryside fantasy in a grand 19th Century house nestled among the vineyards of Bordeaux, where Mimi, a half-French, half-Chinese city girl who grew up in Hong Kong and then Paris, first began blogging about rural food and life. “Three years ago in August we saw this beautiful apartment on the piazza in Torino. I thought, ‘If I ever move to Italy, I’d want to be in the biggest piazza bursting with energy and all the life.’” Reader, the Thorissons packed up their bucolic French lifestyle, eight kids, dogs and all, and drove 11 hours to Torino. Why Italia? “I love the Amalfi Coast, Sophia Loren, Napoli, the energy, the family, the passion. Italy is very welcoming, it’s less formal than France. Plus nothing beats a great Italian trattoria.”
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As a foodie, the move was a no-brainer for Mimi, whose new cookbook ‘Old World Italian: Recipes And Secrets From Our Travels In Italy’ is a “love letter” to the pasta alla gricia of Roma, the cheese of Piedmont, and the seafood of Venice the Thorissons discovered while road-tripping across the country. Her favorite gastronomic spot? “Emilia Romagna. I think the pasta there is excellent. You have the tortellini, the lasagne verde, the hams, the charcuterie. It’s very special and old fashioned – the ultimate Italian food.”
Christmas is going to be a traditional Italian affair, which, naturally, means more food. Mimi buys Pandoro – a Veronese Italian sweetbread – from Pasticceria Gigi in Torino – “It’s so beautiful, it’s golden inside and covered with icing sugar like a white cloud. I have to reserve it now for Christmas, people queue on the street outside with their vouchers.” Her Christmas feast will start with tortellini in brodo, then capone stuffed with sausage and wrapped in pancetta. Under her husband’s insistence, for New Year’s Day it will be cotechino pig leg knuckle served with lentils, as is tradition in Italy.
Taken from her bellissimo cookbook Old World Italian, Mimi shares two recipes for your own Christmas feast – Italia style.