We're Dreaming of an Old World Italian Christmas with Mimi Thorisson

Lauren Wicks
·5-min read
Photo credit: © 2020 by Odder Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
Photo credit: © 2020 by Odder Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

From Veranda

Though Mimi Thorisson has had an illustrious career in media, fashion, and televison, she's found her greatest purpose at home, cooking for the people she loves—and teaching her 350,000+ followers to do the same through weekend workshops and acclaimed cookbooks. Her latest book, Old World Italian, which debuted in September, is not just a love letter to authentic Italian cuisine, it is also a love letter to the gorgeous country that her family of 10 decided to call home on a whim two years ago.

"It meant so much more when [the book] came out this time," Thorisson says. "It was extra-special because the world had completely changed since I started writing it, and Italy was one of the first countries to be impacted by the virus. It was quite emotional to give it to the friends and restaurants who contributed—they had to lay off quite a bit of staff to survive. This book really felt like a big, warm hug."

And with the year we've all experienced, Thorisson's comforting recipes, accompanied by dreamy vignettes of Italian life captured by her photographer husband Oddur Thorrisson, offer the perfect escape for the wanderlusting reader. Thorisson does a masterful job explaining how to make seemingly intimidating dishes—ravioli from scratch!—into simple projects the whole family can join in on, which feel like sublime activities for a quiet holiday at home together this year. Thankfully, Thorisson has eight eager children to assist in her culinary ventures, and she can't wait for them all to fill her family's home in Turin once universities are out for the semester.

"We've always loved it here—it was the place to go for our holidays." Thorisson says. "We didn't really plan on moving, we just decided to go for a road trip one summer and then decided to stay and live out the experience to the fullest—now we've been here for over two years! Northern Italy is so interesting and beautiful, and Turin is unique because people don't know much about it, but it was the former capital of Italy. There are lots of palaces everywhere. It has such a rich history with beautiful architecture, and, of course, food—it has the biggest farmers market in Europe."

Photo credit: Photographs copyright © 2020 by Odder Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
Photo credit: Photographs copyright © 2020 by Odder Thorisson. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

Thorisson and her family felt right at home in this charming city, and although she will always have a place in her heart for France, she loves the cheerfulness and casual way of living here. And it has certainly had an influence on the way she cooks, entertains, and decorates her historic home. Thorisson says she and her family arrived in Turin with only a single painting, leaving the décor of her French countryside house behind, and she enjoyed the journey of slowly curating an Italian-style home with pieces from neighborhood flea markets, antique shops, and carpenters.

"We first found beautiful dining and kitchen tables, and I believe that's just what you need to start fresh somewhere," she says. "I loved adapting to this place through discovering all these local shops, and it helped me feel a part of it all. We wanted a different look from our old, rustic house in France—something a bit stylish with a mix of Italianate style. It took us a year and a half to build up, but you don't want to rush into things and create a look you don't want or end up wasting pieces."

One of her favorite items to collect, however, is tableware, and curating an Italian table has been another exciting part of learning the way of her beautiful new country. Her moody tablescapes are all over her Instagram feed and are inspiring for an understated yet elegant Christmas table.

"One thing I've learned about coming to Italy is that while France is more classic and monochromatic, it's more flamboyant here." she says. "I can be daring with florals and mix with color more. I love the classics, but since I've been here, I've found it exciting to do a floral tablecloth with mixed plates. That's quite new for me, but I love adding color to the table and mixing and matching pieces. I also enjoy putting big baskets of chestnuts on the table, which feels very Italian."

One of her favorite treats to make for the holidays is an Italian-inspired take on the classic French madeleine, which she fills with a vanilla chestnut cream. These 20-minute delicacies are an ideal addition to any small holiday gathering and look beautiful on the table.

And while a favorite celebratory main dish of hers is a stuffed capone (a type of poultry) wrapped in pancetta and stuffed with chestnuts and marsala wine, what better dish to serve for a holiday meal in 2020 than a comforting plate of homemade pumpkin ravioli with brown butter, chestnuts, and sage?

**RECIPE**

"It's exciting to always have so many things on the menu with family-style cooking and eating in Italy—but who doesn't love a heaping plate of pasta and Parmesan?" Thorisson says. "Italian food is all about beautiful, seasonal cooking. There's lots of simplicity in this way of cooking, and it's so exciting with all its regional delicacies."

While Thorisson's followers are inspired by her stunning plates piled high with homemade pasta, fresh produce lying around her kitchen in the most messy-perfect way, her romantic sense of fashion, and glamorous family getaways, the tastemaker's greatest appeal lies in the art of enjoying life's simple moments to the fullest—capturing a child's freshly picked backyard bouquets, a quiet moment when the sun hits just right, and simply dressed tables littered with full plates and glasses of local wine. Old World Italian reminds us some of life's greatest moments are happening at home in the everyday, mundaneness. This holiday season, we must soak in in every moment, celebrate this year's small victories and simple pleasures, learn to enjoy an un-characteristically slower pace of life than this time of year typically offers and hope for brighter days ahead in the rapidly approaching new year.

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