Nadia Caterina Munno, a k a “Pasta Queen,” assumed her semolina-flour throne by accident.
In February 2020, the 36-year-old mom of four was deleting the TikTok app from daughter Desiree’s phone when she stumbled on a problematic lasagna-making video. Watery noodles and random bits of food were being thoughtlessly tossed in a pan.
“I was mortified,” Munno, who was born in Rome and is now based in South Florida, told The Post. “They promoted it as an Italian classic. I was like, ‘How dare they.’ This is even more offensive than people dancing to random things.”
So, she filmed herself critiquing the lasagna, quipping, “Parmigiana is good, but it can’t make miracles.” It attracted millions of views, leading Munno to create more 60-second videos for the platform that have quickly made her a viral star.
“I went from almost deleting the app to getting addicted,” she said.
Now, she has 2.5 million TikTok followers, who log on to see the sultry brunette talk pasta in her signature red-sauce lip, matching nails and thick Italian accent. Her latest venture is a cookbook, “The Pasta Queen: A Just Gorgeous Cookbook” (Gallery Books), out Nov. 8. In it, she shares more than 100 recipes for dishes such as her viral pasta al limone, a classic penne alla vodka, her famous Assassin’s Spaghetti (risotto-style tomato pasta) and her favorite, spaghetti alla carbonara, (see recipe at right).
The foundation of her cookbook is her “Rules for Making Perfect Pasta,” a step-by-step breakdown of pasta-making secrets that include tips like salting the water, how to perfect “very al dente” and saving rather than draining the used pasta water to make creamier sauce.
Munno’s authority on pasta is in her blood — she hails from five generations of professional Naples-based pasta-makers. She moved to the United States in 2015 with her British husband, and cut her teeth producing culinary content for her YouTube channel as a creative outlet from her corporate job.
“I was stuck in the corporate world dealing with financial institutions most of the time and dealing with contracts,” she said. “For me as a person, I found it not creative enough and a little depressing.”
But, she ultimately didn’t have time for YouTube and shelved her creative pursuits for years — until her TikTok awakening.
Her content is resonating with the masses and celebrity fans. Kylie Jenner “went crazy” over her Sophia Loren-inspired recipe for creamy lemon pasta.
“She had reposted my recipe. Then she got obsessed with my creamy pea pasta,” said Munno, who also counts Sofia Vergara and Drew Barrymore as fans.
She says that Kylie’s half sister, Kim Kardashian, could also use her advice, recalling a moment on the family’s Hulu show in which Kim asked a waiter what tortellini was while visiting Italy.
Munno was horrified.
“Oh my god that is blasphemous,” she told The Post. “We need to teach her! She should know what tortellini is. We need to rectify that situation.”
The Pasta Queen’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara, serves 4
1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat.
2. Meanwhile, in a large deep sauté pan, heat 6 ounces guanciale (cut into 1 x 1/2 x 1/2-inch sticks) over low heat and sizzle until golden and lightly crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer three-quarters of the guanciale and its luscious fat to a large bowl to cool. Set aside the remaining guanciale on a paper towel to use as garnish. Keep the pan in reserve.
3. Once the guanciale fat has cooled to the point it won’t scramble the eggs when it comes into contact with them, add 4 large egg yolks, 1 large whole egg, 5 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano (about 1 ¾ cups, plus more for dusting) and 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper to the bowl, beating passionately to make a thick and creamy sauce.
4. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, season with sea salt until it tastes like a seasoned soup. Drop in 1 pound spaghetti and cook until al dente.
5. Transfer the pasta to the pan where the guanciale was cooked. Add a ladle (1/2 cup) of pasta cooking water to the egg mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat energetically to combine. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Stir passionately until the sauce thickens, adding more pasta water as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the perfect consistency.
6. Serve garnished with a scrunch of black pepper, a dusting of Pecorino Romano, and the reserved guanciale pieces sprinkled on top.