Fresh produce spilling onto marble tabletops, Campari spritzes on hand-painted tile counters, plates of ragu enjoyed on the stoop of a Naples restaurant—each recipe and anecdote splashed across the pages of Mimi Thorisson’s new cookbook Old World Italian (a love letter to her adopted city of Turin, where her family of seven is based) is incredibly transportive—and, it turns out, easier to re-create than you might think. So simple that you can even get your little ones to pitch in, and that’s exactly what Thorisson did while compiling the book.
“I think the most important part of getting kids involved is to show them the magic of cooking; for example, how plain butter can turn to an elegant brown butter infused with herbs,” she says. With five children under the age of 14 at home, she keeps them engaged by reading cookbooks together (each one gets to pick a dish to make) and handing out job titles: One is the sous chef, one is the pastry chef, another “oversees” sauces. “I turn things into a game, and they love it,” adds the author.
One family favorite is sage and walnut tagliatelle. It’s a happy accident she came up with one night when trying to simultaneously get ready for a date night with her husband and prep dinner: “I wanted something that was quick and delicious, that wasn’t just cheese and pasta,” she remembers. “Walnuts and sage leaves are always available in my kitchen.” Now her kids know how to make the brown butter sauce on their own and have mastered the art of toasting walnuts on a tray to help with the prep work. “They even ask for this when one of their birthdays pops up—I have a theory that the combined flavors must remind them of salty caramel,” says Thorisson.
Sage and Walnut Tagliatelle
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 lb dried tagliatelle
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter
- Fine sea salt
- 20 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
- ⅔ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta to the water and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Reserving a ladle of pasta water, drain the pasta.
- Meanwhile, in a large saucepan (large enough to add all the pasta later), melt the butter with 1 teaspoon salt over medium-high heat. When it starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it cook until it starts to turn golden. Add the sage leaves and cook until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the sage leaves continue to cook until slightly crispy. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- When the pasta is ready, heat the pan with the brown butter and sage leaves over medium heat. Stir in the walnuts. Toss in the pasta and the reserved pasta water and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
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