Rita Wilson Says She Always Makes This Nora Ephron Dish at Thanksgiving (Exclusive)

Wilson also tells PEOPLE that the iconic filmmaker was — "without a doubt" — her biggest female supporter

<p>Steve Eichner/Variety via Getty,  Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic</p>

Steve Eichner/Variety via Getty, Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Rita Wilson takes a page out of Nora Ephron's cookbook each year.

At the Academy Women’s Luncheon, presented by Chanel and held at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles on Thursday, the 67-year-old actress revealed that Ephron’s influence on her life extends beyond the big screen — and into the kitchen.

At the event, Wilson told PEOPLE that when it comes to her family’s Thanksgiving meal, she cooks “the entire thing” — and revealed that she got one of her signature dishes from the When Harry Met Sally creator, who died in 2012 at 71.

Related: Rita Wilson Says Tom Hanks Turned Down 'When Harry Met Sally' Because He Was Going Through Divorce

“It's always the same and I love it. It's family. I cook the entire thing … It's just really nice to have the time off and be together,” she says, adding that one of her most beloved dishes is “a Nora Ephron recipe.”

The dish? “Orange praline yams," Wilson reveals.

“Not sweet potatoes — yams,” she clarifies. “They're a different thing.”

At the L.A. event, which centered on emerging women filmmakers, the Sleepless in Seattle actress (who is married to Ephron muse Tom Hanks) also revealed that the legendary screenwriter was — “without a doubt" — her biggest female supporter.

“She saw in me that I was an actress who could do comedy. She saw in me that I could write,” Wilson says, adding that Ephron “said amazing things.”

Related: Rita Wilson Says 'I Still Have Conversations' with Friends and Family Who've Died

“She came to my very first music performance ever and she said, ‘You keep doing this,’” Wilson continues. “And she wasn't like a saccharine sweet, like, ‘Oh, you go, girl, honey.’ She was like, ‘No, you're doing this and you can do this.’”

<p>Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty</p> Rita Wilson and Nora Ephron in 1997.

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

Rita Wilson and Nora Ephron in 1997.

In a 2021 interview with Variety, the actress revealed how significant Ephron was to her career and that the journalist and filmmaker was a mentor for her.

When asked about the crowning moment of her career, Wilson said, “I think Nora Ephron casting me in Sleepless, and then afterwards in Mixed Nuts. And then again in plays that she did.”

Related: What Nora Ephron's Son Jacob Bernstein Learned About His Late Mother While Making the Documentary 'Everything Is Copy'

“Nora was the first time I ever had a mentor, someone who could say, “Here’s how you do it. I think you have something and let’s work together,’” she told the outlet, adding that Ephron “did this numerous times during our friendship.”

Wilson continued, “My mom was Greek. My dad was Bulgarian. They were immigrants. I was a first-generation American. Nobody was in the business. I never had someone who said, ‘Here’s how you do this,’ until Nora.”

Following Ephron’s death in 2012, Wilson detailed more about her longtime friendship with the You’ve Got Mail director in an article she penned for HuffPost.

In the heartfelt tribute, Wilson wrote that Ephron was “a one of a kind woman, and an extraordinary talent.”

“We all know that,” she said. “She was also a one of a kind friend. An extraordinary friend.”

Related: Tom Hanks Jokes He 'Slept with the Producer' Rita Wilson for Lead Role in 'A Man Called Otto'

The actress also shared details of the rom-com icon’s philosophies about food — and how they influenced her own: “She believed good food made for happier casts and crews. She was right," Wilson wrote.

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“Nora celebrated life to an insatiable degree, yet without any of the manic energy one associates with people who have ‘insatiable appetites’ for life,” she continued. “She had a calm and elegant way of savoring every moment.”

Wilson also wrote that the filmmaker’s dinner parties were “a recipe for joy: part salon, part celebration, part Nora's own cooking, part ready-made dishes.”

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