Nadia Caterina Munno discusses her internet legacy and love for her culinary roots
With 4.2 million followers across Instagram and TikTok, Nadia Caterina Munno, perhaps better known as the internet’s beloved Pasta Queen, is a viral Italian sensation. In 2020, at the height of the global COVID-19-induced lockdowns, she captured the hearts, and stomachs, of millions of viewers through her mouthwatering, easy-to-follow pasta recipes, eccentric Italian flair, and signature catchphrase – “I am pasta, I am drama, I am Italiana.”
The 36-year-old native of Rome descends from generations of southern Italian pasta makers.
Her family legacy has been captured through the hundreds of pasta dishes she has recorded for social media where she often punctuates her videos by reminding her followers that, exactly like her recipes, they are just gorgeous. On November 8, Munno is slated to release her first-ever cookbook that serves as a comprehensive guide to pasta, one of Italy’s most diverse and popular culinary heritages. Titled “A Just Gorgeous Cookbook: 100+ Recipes and Stories” it contains over 100 recipes, from her viral plates, including Carbonara and Pasta Al Limone, to her own creations, such as the fiery Assassin’s Spaghetti, to 100-year-old, never-before-seen family recipes. More than just a compilation of recipes, her cookbook is a visually immersive love letter to Italy’s culture and lifestyle expressed through her family’s culinary legacy.
America Domani sat down with the Queen herself to talk about her culinary roots, her Pasta Queen legacy, and the inspiration behind her first cookbook. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
America Domani: What are some of your earliest memories surrounding pasta?
Nadia Caterina Munno: My earliest memory would be down south because my father’s family is from Caserta [a town roughly 20 miles north of Naples]. I was born in Rome but moved to Caserta when I was around two years old, returning to the city when I was about five. My earliest memories are of my grandparents Caterina, who I am named after, and Agostino. My family has been farmers since the 1700s, and they opened a pasta factory around 1860 – we are referred to as the “Macaroni” in the town. [My family] has always been in the business of food and providing the area with wheat and basic produce, and this is something I’ve always been around.
AD: How and when did you start Pasta Queen?
NCM: It wasn’t until February 2020 that I discovered TikTok, which I discovered because my six-year-old daughter was on the app. As an Italian mother, I was initially concerned, and just when I was about to log off of it, I found someone that had posted what he claimed to be the perfect lasagna – and it was like a criminal act. I was so offended by it, so I made a reaction video to it, which went viral. It was so easy, there was no editing. And when lockdown happened, I was stuck at home cooking for everyone and I decided to record my recipes. Between March and July 2020, I got to 1 million followers and everything just started going viral.
AD: How did the name “Pasta Queen” come about?
NCM: I realized that at the time, no one on TikTok could cook authentic Italian food. I come from generations of pasta makers and I decided that I was going to be the Pasta Queen of TikTok. And it resonated with the entire community. I was recording family recipes that are 100 years old. I decided I was going to be really authentic and traditional and bring my family’s traditions to TikTok to dominate the space. Everyone in the world knows pasta, and I told myself that I was going to be at the top – I was going to be the Pasta Queen.
AD: You’re known on social media in part because of your simple, easy-to-follow pasta recipes, but also because of your entertaining, flamboyant character. What made you take this specific approach to your content?
NCM: My first viral video was me attacking the people who did the lasagna video. Every time I do a food reaction video, it goes viral. I just really like keeping things interesting and lively. In a different life, I would have probably been a theater actor. I love theater, I love being dramatic. I love playing a character that is larger than life. I like entertaining and putting on a show, and that’s what I really love the most about cooking too.
AD: Your new cookbook “A Gorgeous Cookbook” is coming out on November 8. What was the inspiration behind it and what can readers expect from it?
NCM: I wanted to not only bring a book of recipes, but also a memoir. I also wanted to make it interactive because I am a social media personality and I know how important visuals are. I decided to invest two, full-time months in Italy doing lifestyle and food photoshoots because I wanted to capture the essence of Italian lifestyle and culture. And in my cookbook, under my most popular recipes, you will find a QR code that will bring you to videos of me cooking the recipes, so we can cook together. I want it to be an experience, I want readers to feel as if they’re going on a journey of Italy with me and my family and my roots. It’s extremely visual and gorgeous, which is why it's called “A Gorgeous Cookbook.”
AD: It seems like putting this cookbook together was a pretty intensive process. How long did it take you to bring everything together?
NCM: It took a year to work on it full time between the manuscript, the design layout, producing photos, and recipe testing. Some of the recipes you see in the cookbook are 100 years old, so it's generations of knowledge captured in food.
AD: Where will the cookbook be distributed?
NCM: Right now it's available on Amazon throughout the entire world. There are two major distributors and publishers: Simon & Schuster is taking the U.S. and Canada, and HarperCollins is doing the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand – basically the Commonwealth. The UK edition is in metric measurements for Europe and the U.S. edition is both imperial and metric.
AD: So, zooming out a bit, what would be your absolute dream regarding your company?
NCM: I really want to be an ambassador for the Italian lifestyle and culture in the world. Also, and I'm doing this slowly, I want to expand Pasta Queen outside of cooking. I want to go into fashion, design, decor, and kitchen accessories. I want to bring the full beauty of Italian culture to the world in terms of style, fashion, architecture – the whole thing.
Click here to order "The Pasta Queen: A Just Gorgeous Cookbook" from Amazon today!
Asia London Palomba
Asia London Palomba is a trilingual freelance journalist from Rome, Italy, currently pursuing her master's in journalism at New York University (NYU). In the past, her work on culture, travel, and history has been published in The Boston Globe, Atlas Obscura, and The Christian Science Monitor. In her free time, Asia enjoys traveling home to Italy to spend time with family and friends, drinking Hugo Spritzes, and making her nonna's homemade cavatelli.