Inside the studio: Designing & cooking with Louise Fili (special recipe, too!)

The work of Louise Fili — one of the most celebrated designers of our time — is richly allusive, with a depth of connotations … but always instantly, effortlessly recognizable as hers alone. Here she describes how her studio and love of cooking activate, enliven and inform her practice, and she offers a personal recipe.

[Louise Fili] When I started my design studio 20 years ago, I made a conscious decision to focus on my three passions — food, type and Italy. My current studio space, which I moved into two years ago, is a walk-in archive of all the restaurant menus, business cards, matchbooks and specialty food packages I’ve designed, as well as the many posters and flea market finds I have gathered from years of traveling in Italy. Surrounded by objects that I treasure, I always feel at home, and at the same time I am transported to Europe on a daily basis.

I fell in love with my kitchen the moment I first laid eyes on it — ceiling-high stainless steel cabinets to house all of my food packaging samples, and a wine fridge for all of the label designs. A hidden collapsible stepladder is indispensable for reaching the high shelves, and the illuminated glass-fronted cabinets are a good way to showcase new projects.

This is a workplace where I feel just as comfortable designing as I do cooking lunch for staff or clients.

TODAY I am making pasta al cartoccio — pasta baked in parchment. I cook linguine for a few minutes less than usual, then mix it with a puttanesca sauce and bake individual portions wrapped in parchment paper.  (Tracing paper works equally well.) On occasions such as this, the conference room doubles as a dining room. For dessert, our client L’Arte del Gelato has supplied some house favorites: Frutto della Passione, Zenzero and Stracciatella.  (My staff approves.) Now back to work!

Pasta al Cartoccio
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1 large can Italian tomatoes, drained
large pinch of hot red pepper flakes
3 large plum tomatoes
1 medium bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguine or fettucine
cooking parchment — or tracing paper!

In a large pan, sauté garlic in oil for 3 minutes. Remove garlic and add the canned tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the hot red pepper. Pass it through a food mill and return to the pan over medium heat for 10 more minutes. Set aside.

Boil water in a large pot and add a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Drop in the fresh tomatoes for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Remove skins, remove the seeds and chop the tomatoes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a teaspoon of Kosher salt. Add the pasta and cook for a few minutes less than the norm for al dente pasta.

Prepare 6 pieces of parchment or tracing paper (about 8.5 x 11 in.) on a counter. In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, parsley, olives, tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl. Mix well. Divide the contents into 6 servings, and place each onto a parchment sheet and wrap tightly. Place all packages snugly into a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Place each portion in a pasta bowl and cut open with scissors. Serve immediately. Buon Appetito!

The editor will testify for the quality of Fili’s recipe … & advises that if you can’t make it to L’Arte del Gelato, at least stop by the site for a taste of appetizing graphics, courtesy of Louise Fili Ltd.

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Comments (5)

  1. Posted by Laura Shore on 04.2.10 at 9:23 am

    Can’t wait to make the recipe! Thanks Louise. I remember visiting your studio the first time and being somewhat confused about whether I was visiting an office or residence. Now I realize that the blurring was thoughtfully intentioned. Brava!

  2. Posted by Grace Fili Maguire on 04.4.10 at 11:32 am


  3. Posted by Lita Talarico on 04.5.10 at 6:42 am


  4. Posted by Pam Williams on 04.6.10 at 5:30 pm


  5. Posted by angela on 04.7.10 at 10:46 am

    Beautiful and delicious! my ideal studio space!

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