The Pasta Queen Dishes on What’s on Her Holiday Wishlist, and the Tools No (Pasta-Obsessed) Home Cook Should Be Without
It’s no secret that here at The Kitchn, we’re huge fans of Nadia Caterina Munno, a.k.a. the Pasta Queen. Whether we’re celebrating the launch of her cookbook, recreating her cacio e pepe, or scrolling through her hilarious TikTok feed, there’s never a dull moment when we interact with her content. And, lucky for us, she’s coming to NYC this weekend to take part in FoodieCon, the New York City Food & Wine Festival’s all-day event headlined by all your favorite food influencers. We caught up with the Pasta Queen before the convention to talk about her must-have tools for the kitchen, including gadgets for the pasta-obsessed home chef and small-space-friendly staples for apartment dwellers. You can also shop her picks on her Amazon storefront, though not all of the recs she shared with us below have made their way there yet. Whether you’re already on the hunt for quality holiday gifts or looking to upgrade your own cooking arsenal, you’ll find plenty of inspo among them.
1. First, can you talk about your involvement with FoodieCon and what you’re looking forward to during the convention tomorrow?
Munno: It’s going to be really fun because there are a lot of things that I’ll be hosting, including being a judge on the actual New York City Food & Wine Festival panel. I’m also doing a panel about Italian-American culture and the crossover between authentic Italian versus Italian-American cuisine, so I’m very excited about that. I’m concluding the festival the following day, so the 15th, with a Demo & Dine demonstration, where I’ll be making one of my viral pasta dishes live for 50 people to taste. Of course, at FoodieCon I’m also going to be doing a book signing.
2. What are the kitchen tools you think every home chef should have, especially if they want to make authentic-tasting pasta?
A really basic, cost-effective machine that I still use is a manual Marcato pasta maker. It’s a stainless-steel, very basic pasta maker that comes with attachments for different types of pasta. It’s a must to me because you can use it on any surface, whether it’s wood, marble, stainless steel — you really don’t need to have a pasta board. The pasta machine is useful when you don’t have the time to roll pasta by hand.
I have a few basic tools, and that includes the Marcato pasta maker and a very basic rolling pin — nothing too fancy. I really love a dough cutter, but you can use a butter knife or chef’s knife. You don’t have to have all this fancy stuff. But, a rolling pin and pasta maker are the basic things you want to start with.
Then, you can add pasta cutters for ravioli, a gnocchi board, a cheese grater to make Sardinian Gnocchi. You could get a beautiful maple wood pasta board and a pasta drying rack. And if you really want to get fancy, I would also get a guitar pasta cutter — you know, it looks like a little instrument where you cut a specific spaghetti shape through it.
But those are all examples of accessories that you can collect through the years. You don’t have to start with all of them. But if you’re thinking about gifts for someone who loves pasta, I think that list is key because everybody’s going to love it. And it’s nice because you can spend $20, $30 on each item, and you can give them as gifts to someone who loves to make fresh, homemade pasta.
3. Which kitchen products do you recommend for someone moving into a new apartment?
I would totally get a food processor. I use one from Ninja that I really love; I believe it’s a five-in-one. I think it’s awesome. I make the best pestos with it, and you can use it to chop vegetables. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can throw carrots in there, celery, onions, and it chops them up for you. You can also make a great base for a meat sauce.
And, even before that, you should probably get some pots and pans. There’s are brand that I really love from Italy called Agnelli. I’ve used their pans forever, and they’re really easy to clean. They come in stainless steel and aluminum, and they also have a special copper line, but the stainless steel is budget-friendly. They’re light as a feather, so you can toss pasta in the air and not twist your wrist, which I’ve done, by the way, with my copper pots and pans.
They have a really tiny pan, a medium one, large ones, and you can cook anything in them. You can sauté, braise, stir fry; you can even deep fry in them because they’re nice and deep, so you can create a nice 2-inch layer of oil. But best of all, you can make amazing sauces and pasta with them. So I would get one stock pot and two different-sized frying pans. Those can be used for anything: eggs, meat, vegetables, sauces.
I think you should have a moka pot. It’s an Italian coffee pot; they’re like $30 to $40. Instead of having to buy a $400 coffee machine, you can make coffee with a moka pot, which is really great, to be honest, especially if you want the Italian experience.
I love an electric oven; they’re very useful. I have a Ninja one, and I have a Wolf one that’s a little bit more expensive. The Ninja one is more accessible, and it does a lot of different types of cooking. I think it’s fantastic to have if you don’t have a big kitchen and you can’t afford a big stove or double oven.
I love a basic set of knives. The ones I usually get are from Zwilling, and they can range from very basic to high-quality steel. They’re expensive, but I think they’re very good. Wusthof knives are also fantastic. You can just own one knife, like a chef’s knife, and then add a serrated knife, a paring knife; you can add all sorts of different knives later, but a chef’s knife is a must because it’s so versatile.
4. You mentioned some gift ideas for aspiring pasta home chefs. What’s on your kitchen holiday wishlist?
I would like a Salamander, but that’s because I’m a chef. I love the Salamander because I want to grill on it and create specific types of finishes on my foods. I’d like a little blow torch, as well. Not a killer one like the flame thrower in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Probably a modest one to create amazing desserts and finishes on my roasted peppers.
I always love good wooden spoons — I can never have enough of them, like I actually collect them. So if someone really loves me, they can go on Etsy and get me some vintage wooden spoons, and I would be so happy.
I’m also a collector of rolling pins, of course, because they are just so awesome. I have 100-year-old rolling pins from France, Italy, all over Europe. I think they’re beautiful to collect and also double as art for the kitchen. I love copper accessories, like salt and pepper shakers, colanders, or little spice pots, which are really tiny and you can hang on the wall. And of course, wooden cutting boards are my soft spot.
I was gifted a special wooden cutting board from Taylor Guitars. It’s made of wood from guitar scraps, and I got the owner of Taylor Guitars to make me a special one, which I use all the time. I have this special mineral oil I use on it that they sent me, but yeah, it’s so satisfying to use.