Who Actually Is TikTok's Pasta Queen?

Celebrity chefs often have an identifiable catchphrase, and if you're a fan of the Pasta Queen, you'll know her simple trademark slogan: "Just gorgeous!" The Pasta Queen, whose real name is Nadia Caterina Munno, is the latest celebrity chef sensation, yet unlike a lot of chefs on The Food Network, Munno built her brand through Tik Tok.

While the Pasta Queen may be a relatively new celebrity chef on the scene, she's recently gained a lot of momentum with a best-selling cookbook. She's also signed up with powerhouse talent agency CAA, which means 2023 could be a heck of a year for her.

If you're new to the Pasta Queen, or if you're already a fan, there's still a lot you may not know about her, including how she became a viral phenomenon. Here's an introduction to the Pasta Queen, and some facts about her even fans may not know.

Who is the Pasta Queen?

Nadia Caterina Munno is a native of Italy, having being born in Rome, and spent a few years of her early childhood in a region of Italy located near Naples, called Caserta. While she moved back to Rome at five years old, her family has deep roots in Caserta, as she explained to America Domani, she comes from a long line of farmers, her family had been farming since the 1700s, and they opened their own pasta factory around 1860. As Munno explained, "[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."

Growing up in Italy, Munno knew there was a deep respect for cooking traditions, and she's carried these traditions with her own work. In fact, Munno came from a family of pasta makers, who were nicknamed the "Macaroni."

It was this link to her family's history and traditions that spurred her to begin creating on TikTok, after watching what she considered an abomination of a lasagna recipe being posted on the platform.

How she broke through on TikTok

So how did Nadia Caterina Munno break through on TikTok as opposed to, say, the Food Network? It was a wonderful accident that created a lucrative career, as Munno explains on her official website: "Way back in 2020, one of my daughters showed me this little app named TikTok, I had no idea what it was about, but I immediately investigated the content to ensure she was not seeing anything inappropriate."

Munno was inclined to simply delete the app, but then she witnessed something that made her toes curl; someone trying to cook lasagna — badly. She described how her pride in her culture rose in indignation and spurred her to make amends: "I knew then that I needed to share the high-quality, accessible, authentic recipes that have been in my family for generations with the world."

Munno also realized (via America Domani) there was a big void on TikTok because, as far as she was concerned, nobody actually knew how to create an authentic Italian dish. Considering the generations of great chefs in her family, she decided to dub herself the Pasta Queen of Tik Tok. Munno learned about TikTok from her children, and she took to it like a duck to water — so much so, that she made it her full-time job.

How the Pasta Queen drew from her Italian heritage

In Italy, Munno understood the long heritage of cooking and incredible food, and she's carrying those traditions with her today.

As she explained (via Italy magazine), in Italy it was easy to find farmers' markets where people could buy the freshest fruit, vegetables, fish, bread, and more. "That's how I grew up," she says. "going to the mercato and watching the farmers bring their goods from their land very early in the morning, every single day."

So it was quite a culture shock for Munno when she moved to America, where farmer's markets weren't on every corner, and it wasn't easy to get the right fresh food and ingredients. Then she forged relationships with local farmers, and rebuilt her foundation from there. As she recommends, "Build relationships with farmers in your area that care about the soil and, in return, support local businesses and families. These relationships feel like something you find in Italy."

How the pandemic helped launch her career

Before she became a viral sensation, Munno had moved to America, where she landed a job working in marketing with her husband. Then the pandemic hit, and Munno, like the rest of us, was stuck at home with a lot of free time on her hands. However, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because she discovered TikTok through her kids, per Italy Magazine.

As Munno told the David Leite podcast, she became determined to launch her brand. "I'm going to do this," she recalled. "I'm locked in my house, my company is on standby, there was nothing better to do really. We couldn't go outside much, we couldn't mingle with friends, so I had a lot of time on our hands." Munno didn't need high-tech equipment — she took videos with her iPhones — and she started posting like crazy. As she explained, "At that point, it was about March [2020], I started posting at least once a day."

While the pandemic was a horrible event for many, people like Munno provided something great for the world to make many people's lives much easier. During the pandemic, many of us had to do something with our free time, and cooking was a great way to make the time pass — and it boosted Munno's career to the moon.

Some of her favorite recipes

So what are some of the Pasta Queen's favorite recipes? One popular dish on her TikTok is called the "angry baroness." "Something amazing happens when you combine garlic, onions, and a little tomato base with vodka. It's a chemical reaction of love. Next, add some heavy cream and chili pepper, with a drizzle of salt, and a scrunch of pepper."

Another is "the assassin's spaghetti," which includes minced garlic, chili peppers, and tomato broth. Then there's "the lazy princess," which like the assassin's spaghetti is a one-pot entrée; you cook diced onions and peas in olive oil, then add in salt, pepper, and boiling water to make a creamy sauce, and you finally whisk an egg with parmesan cheese.

As Munno told Fed and Fit, the three recipes she's the proudest of include ricotta meatballs, lemon pasta (as she recalled: "It was one of Drew Barrymore's favorites so we did it on her show"), and panzanella, which she called one of the easiest recipes her aunt taught her.

Some of her favored tools and ingredients

It's the most obvious thing to say, but one of the most important ingredients in cooking a great Italian meal, if not the most important, is, of course, pasta.

As Munno explained to Fed & Fit, "I found that there's one thing we can agree on – Pasta. You can't hate it. You can't attack it. You can only love it." Her favorite pasta shape is spaghetti, and as she explained to Italy Magazine, "It is so southern Italian and versatile; you can make it for nearly everything, and you can't help but love twirling it with a fork."

As far as the most important tools to have in your kitchen, Munno recommends getting copper pots and pans, a good serving fork, wooden spoons, ("I love using wood," she explains), and a cheese grater for parmesan and pecorino. Of the latter, she proclaims, "These cheeses are a religion for us!"

Her debut cookbook

Last year, the Pasta Queen's career took a major step up with her first cookbook. The cookbook is titled "A Just Gorgeous Cookbook," and it hit No.5 on the New York Times best sellers list, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

On her website, Munno wrote: "I am so proud to announce that after over a full year of hard work and a lifetime of love and passion for all things pasta, my debut cookbook is now available." The book was published by Simon and Schuster, one of the biggest publishing houses in the world. But it's not just a collection of great recipes, it also introduces a part of Italy that Munno knew growing up. "For me, Italian cooking is about more than just food," she continues. "It's about the land, the tradition, the hospitality, the history, and the culture."

Publisher's Weekly had praise for her cookbook, stating: "[It is] thorough and infectiously jubilant, this spirited celebration of Italy's most famous food is a winner."

Signing with talent powerhouse CAA

After the success of her TikTok channel and cookbook, Munno has also signed with the major talent agency CAA, per The Hollywood Reporter, which has in the past counted such luminaries as LeBron James among its ranks (per Bleacher Report).

CAA, which stands for Creative Artists Agency, launched a culinary division in 2018, with industry veteran Andrew Chason at the helm. When the division launched, a report said (via License Global): "The new CAA culinary team will work collaboratively across CAA to create new business opportunities in areas such as licensing and merchandising, marketing, publishing, television, digital media, corporate hospitality and more."

The agency is no stranger to high-profile chefs, with personalities such as Gordon Ramsay, Roy Choi, Curtis Stone, and Katie Lee on their books. And now, with her audience of over 2.6 million followers on TikTok, the Pasta Queen proudly stands among their ranks.