french onion-style pasta with gruyère & chives
plus, 8 gifts I'm eyeing this season
December, it’s good to see you.
I really love this time of year. Maybe it’s the frosty mornings, candlelit evenings, and Harry Potter movie marathons. Definitely it’s the soups, stews, cookies, breads, and…well, all the good stuff—the stuff that warms the soul.
December is pasta’s time to shine. Not only because pasta is hug-in-a-bowl food at its best, but also because now, more than any other time of year, it’s customary to make pasta from scratch. In the past, Christmastime was a rare occasion when poor Italians ate rich, swapping the usual thrifty vegetables for meats, spices, and sweets. Head to northern and central Italy and you’ll still find families gathering around kitchen tables to make perhaps the most famous holiday fare, tortellini in brodo—small meat-stuffed parcels destined for a pot of delicate, golden broth. Down south you’re likely to find pasta al forno, baked pasta dishes layered with meat and cheese, piping hot celebrations of abundance.
Which reminds me: I hope I’m not too late to share a few gifts ideas I’ve been eyeing this season. This is a short list because I usually find less is more, and I can easily get distracted by too many choices. There are a couple of pasta tools, of course, but also general kitchen-related things that would suit any cook well. I thought eight was a good number because yes, Christmas is upon us, but so are the eight days of Hanukkah. I’m already pulling out my latke recipe!
A Very Brief Gift Guide for Pasta-Lovers and -Makers
q.b. cucina Olive Wood Gnocchi Board ($22)
Of all the gnocchi boards I have (and there are many), this is the one I reach for the most. The warm, syrupy hue of the olive wood is beautiful, of course, but it’s the style of the ridges—wider than many standard gnocchi boards—that keeps me coming back. Whether you’re making cavatelli, malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi), spizzulus, or classic potato dumplings, this little board will do your pasta justice.
q.b. cucina Italian Phrase Enamel Bowls ($28/each)
Every time I use these bowls, I always get a “where did you get them?!” These hand-painted, deep-plate-style bowls have been a staple of the Italian countryside since the 19th century, and it’s easy to see why. I use them equally for casual gatherings and pasta for one, and whenever I pull them from the cupboard, they bring me comfort, like an Italian fairy godmother. My favorite phrases are ho ancora fame (I’m still hungry)—you’ll see it in the recipe below—and la bellezza passa, la fame no (beauty fades, hunger doesn’t). But don’t sleep on the buone feste (happy holidays) one either. ‘Tis the season!
An A to Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy ($30)
Of all the cookbooks I picked up this year, this one’s probably my favorite. Rachel’s recipes are delicious and delightful, but her writing is what makes this book something really special. She’s witty and poetic, and the stories she tells about pasta remind me that this humble food is far more than the sum of its parts. I’ll be the first to admit that I turn to this book when I have writer’s block, and Rachel always seems to help me find a way out.
Bona Furtuna Blood Orange & Olive Oil Panettone ($64.95)
This is the best panettone I’ve ever had. I don’t even like candied citrus, and it’s the best panettone I’ve ever had. I first tried it when I worked with Bona Furtuna on a brand campaign a couple of years ago, and I still think about it. If you’re not keen on panettone, try it anyway—but also, anything from Bona Furtuna makes a wonderful gift (try the olive oils, tomato sauces, and spices, especially the fennel pollen). Their products are made on a sun-drenched organic farm in Sicily and taste like it, too.
Marcato Atlas 150 Pasta Machine ($81, prices and colors vary)
One of the questions I get asked the most is “which pasta machine should I buy?” Without hesitation, my recommendation is the Marcato Atlas 150 manual (hand-crank) machine. I have four of them: the first, the classic chrome that launched me on my pasta-making journey; the latest, a stylish rose gold for special occasions (you’ll spot it in the cookbook next year!). I love this machine because it’s predictable, churning out smooth and consistent sheets of dough without tugging or tearing. If you’re looking to make pasta more regularly or dive into stuffed pastas in particular, definitely treat yourself to one of these.
John Francis Designs “Sunburst Ravioletti” Mold ($85)
In my previous newsletter, I waxed poetic about my friend John Welch’s stunning hand-carved ravioli molds, so it’s no surprise that my new favorite—the sunburst ravioletti—made the list. Although you don’t need a mold to make ravioli, this is one of those dreamy pasta tools that’ll take your collection to the next level.
Made In Cookware Dutch Oven ($199; currently on sale for $159)
I met the Made In Cookware team in 2019, just after I moved from New York City to Austin, Texas. Back then, the company was just taking off, and everyone I met was more welcoming than I could have imagined (they even hosted a few of my classes!). That’s not to say I’m biased—Made In makes all of my most-loved cookware, and I’ve tried all the major high-end brands. I reach for their stock pot, sauté pan, saucier, and butter warmer regularly, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the Dutch oven—especially in their limited edition Hudson Green and Blood Orange shades. (Family, if you’re reading this…) Check it out before their cyber week sale ends on Sunday.
John Boos Pastry Board ($278.95)
I dream of one day having an enormous Boos block prep table for all my pasta-making endeavors, but until then, I’m perfectly content with this oversized pastry board. The lip on the edge secures it to your countertop with ease, so you don’t have to worry about it sliding around. I always prefer wood for making pasta because its porous surface absorbs excess moisture (acting almost like a non-stick) and provides friction when kneading and shaping dough. It’s especially helpful for hand-formed pasta shapes like cavatelli and orecchiette. Not to mention you can, of course, use it for baking.
Before I go, I’d be remiss not to plug my own holiday offerings. There are still a few private virtual class vouchers available on my website, and I’m also hosting a virtual holiday pasta workshop on Thursday, December 15 at 6pm Eastern, where we’ll play with patterns and colors. Click here for details; I hope you’ll join me!