Welcome to TikTok Millionaires, where we profile creators who have crossed the one million subscriber mark on TikTok. Each week, we’ll chat with a newly minted Millionaire about their life, their content, and their creative goals for the days to come. Read previous installments here.
Crunchy crostino. Glistening bruschetta. Stuffed shells bursting with ricotta.
Nadia Caterina Munno can do it all. And, thanks to her videos, so can her viewers. Munno has turned her presences on TikTok and YouTube into a mini Food Network, dishing out recipes, advice (like the all-important do not just throw out your pasta water), and a little cooking comedy for anyone who’s ever wanted to try down-home Italian DIY.
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For Munno, cultivating a digital life around pasta was a no-brainer. It’s quite literally in her blood: Her Italian family has been making pasta professionally for five generations, supplying to brands that ship from Gragnano (an iconic town known for its noodles) all over the world. When Munno herself decided to do some globetrotting and moved to the U.S. in 2015, she launched a YouTube channel to stay close to her roots and share her love of food with the internet. But, like some of our other Millionaires, she found that making YouTube videos was too time-consuming for someone who didn’t intend to become a full-time digital creator. She took a break from her channal and creating–and then TikTok came along.
Munno saw TikTok as an ideal YouTube alternative, a way for her to make quick clips providing need-to-know instructions for whipping up classic dishes. But as her audience on the app grew–she hit one million followers in less than five months–she began to see the foodie-specific limitations of TikTok. She’d become accustomed to trimming out extra jokes or self-explanatory steps to conserve time in her videos…but what if a recipe truly needed to be longer than 60 seconds?
There was only one thing to do. Munno has become a half-time creator, dedicating a big slice of her workweek to creating TikTok and YouTube videos. Her newly revived YouTube channel, where she puts out a new ten-minute video every Tuesday, has reached 26,000 subscribers, and her TikTok account just hit 1.1 million. On both platforms, she uses her time to teach viewers how to satisfy that pasta-hungry “little Italian” inside all of them.
Check out our chat with her below.
@the_pastaqueenPqsta with mussels & clams, made for the gods of summer ##FoodReview ##italian ##pasta ##seafood♬ original sound – the_pastaqueen
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million followers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Nadia Caterina Munno: Anyone who has a social platform and has watched it grow and grow will tell you that a million followers is an amazing milestone. I thought about the sheer volume of people and tried to imagine them all together in one place. It’s unreal. It’s double the size of Miami!
So when you realize you are talking to so many people, there is a sense of unreality but also newfound purpose.
I love seeing the people who follow my accounts who appreciate my humor. I know many can relate, and am not afraid to show human flaws, make fun of myself, or release my inner, extreme Italian.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? How did you fall in love with food?
NCM: I was born in Rome, Italy, and immigrated here in 2015 to open a branch of my London company. But as a child, I spent my summers with my family in the south of Italy. My brother and I would help my grandfather in the land with the harvest, and we even had a signature wine we would make with our bare feet. If you ever wanted some good ASMR, grape stomping is it!
The pasta-making goes back five generations. Since the early 19th century, our family was known locally as “Macaronis,” and they ran a small pasta factory, supplying fresh pasta to the larger distributors in Gragnano (which is where all the popular pasta brands operate from today). So you could say that pasta is in my DNA! Fun fact: DNA is shaped like fusilli pasta. 😀
I moved to London when I was 18 to pursue my dreams in media and entertainment, but when reality hit, I started a little YouTube channel to remove myself from the boredom of corporate life. Actually, you can find some of my 2015 videos on The Pasta Queen YouTube channel—they are rough and tumble and poorly shot, but even today, I go back and watch them. I was probably a little wilder then, and my poor cousin would join me to cook, and things would go so wrong to the point of tears of laughter.
Tubefilter: How did you first find out about TikTok? What made you decide to join and start posting videos?
NCM: I had put my YouTube videos on pause for about five years to focus on my company and move to the USA. But at the beginning of this year, the passion to cook and have some fun grew in me again, and I went on a search for a new platform which would be easier than YouTube to produce videos. I had time restrictions, and shooting and editing full-length videos can take a while!
When I found TikTok, I think I had the same reaction as other millennials: “Is this for me?” and, “I don’t think I can do the Renegade in a bikini…” But the short, catchy, Vine-like style won me over, and I decide to go for it. I decided to use The Pasta Queen, rather than my full name, Nadia Caterina Munno, to separate work and fun. Now it seems TikTok is becoming my work!
The TikTok creator model is so hyper-digestible. It’s for the modern mind. You have 60 seconds to communicate a love story, a menu, a new style in fashion, to make people laugh, cry, and feel. It’s very clever.
@the_pastaqueenItalian Lemon Ricotta cake ##ricotta ##cake ##baking♬ original sound – the_pastaqueen
Tubefilter: When did you start collecting followers? Was there one specific video that went viral or hit the #foryou page and brought people in, or has your audience been growing steadily over time?
NCM: It took about five months to hit one million followers on The Pasta Queen TikTok account, and the audience growth went in spurts. I’m not going to say that I just kept producing content and hoped for the best. I would get so excited when a video would go partially or full viral on the For You page, and would read all of my followers’ feedback and analyze the video to see what people liked about it. I think it is important for creators to do this. If you listen to what viewers like and don’t like, you can use it to improve your message clarity, produce content people want to see, and answer questions.
Engagement with commenters, people who DM me, and tag me has been my top priority. I love talking to people and hearing their side of things. It makes me and them better and smarter, and it feels great.
Tubefilter: What do you think draws creators and viewers to TikTok? What makes it a unique and engaging platform?
NCM: If you are trying TikTok after another platform like Instagram or YouTube, I think you will either say “TikTok is for me,” or “TikTok isn’t for me.” As I mentioned above, the attraction to creators is the hyper-digestible burst of short content which has naturally become its signature, probably due to the app’s own video editor options. Every three seconds counts. It has to impinge, resonate, and engage.
When I am shooting a 10-minute pasta recipe and condensing it into 25 seconds, I keep asking myself, is this relevant or necessary? But when it’s funny or weird, you just have to add it because it’s real. Life is full of strange and interesting things, and everyone can really be a creator if they just keep an eye on the magical moments around them.
Tubefilter: Have you worked on any collaborations with other creators or any sponsored content with brands? Do you have any brands/products of your own?
NCM: I have collaborated with A Cook Named Matt and Jeremy Scheck, making different pasta dishes together or co-producing a video. The cooking side of TikTok is made of many amazing people, and I love watching and learning how each creator presents and entertains. It’s so fun!
As of now, I have not accepted any sponsors or created any products. I get a lot of messages about creating a cookbook, but for now, I am focused on producing fun content.
I buy and about 40 bags of pasta a week, And luckily I have most of my Italian family over here in Tampa with me now, so it never goes to waste. Behind the scenes of The Pasta Queen kitchen are many eager Italians demanding I finish shooting my video so they can eat. You will actually see them appearing on my videos now and then. @pastabro is my “charming” brother Agostino who frequently appears being fun, and my dad Antonio, aka “Papa Pasta,” has become a favorite on TikTok Live and is frequently mistaken for Robert De Niro.
However, if anyone knows Dolce & Gabbana, send them my way. I am in love with their style, as it resonates my mind, and I’d collaborate in a heartbeat.
@the_pastaqueenGreen temptation, broccoli, kale and spinach pasta ##learnontiktok ##vegetable ##pasta♬ original sound – the_pastaqueen
Tubefilter: Where does TikTok fit into your average day? How much time do you spend brainstorming/creating content? What else do you get up to?
NCM: After I hit about half a million followers, I decided to dedicate half my day to TikTok. I don’t really do any brainstorming; I just kind of channel my inner Italian, maybe call my Aunt Pina in the south of Italy for a recipe, and and start recording on my phone. My brother Agostino is an inspiration for me and keeps things funny.
But I have now built a little light studio in my kitchen. A photographer friend of mine, Felix Kunze, recommended I get a Manfrotto light as it makes food really stand out.
Tubefilter: Are there any TikTok creators who inspire you with their content?
NCM: I love creators that teach me how to be better at what I do–for example, editing. Some TikTokers have an incredible eye for editing and delivering a big idea in a small amount of time. I love @ghosthoney and his dramatic way of expression.
Tubefilter: What’s the secret to a perfect pasta dish?
NCM: Have you ever made a good dish while someone was annoying you? It didn’t taste good, did it? My secret is to feel good and look good while cooking. Somehow the pasta just comes out perfectly!
A little bit of love and pasta water added in at the end to make the whole dish creamier are my tricks.
Tubefilter: Do you think TikTok is a good platform for culinary content? What have you noticed about your audience and how they embrace your content?
NCM: Yes and no. I see the most popular “TikTok Foodies” have each found a niche in culinary education, but as it has to be so short, you cannot fully educate.
It’s fantastic to highlight key culinary tips and make the subject fun. I think each foodie brings more than just skills. Each has such an interesting personality, which people like.
I love sharing anything Italian. Fashion, culture, language, and even some terrible jokes.
Tubefilter: As you mentioned, you’re also on YouTube! Do you approach YouTube content differently than TikTok content? Why do you have a presence on both platforms?
NCM: For more die-hard fans who are serious about cooking, TikTok isn’t enough. They wanted detailed recipes and ingredients, background on Italian culture and fashion. They wanted more. So I relaunched my YouTube a few months ago with a 10-15 full cooking episodes, and a classic Italian recipe going out every Tuesday!
TikTok is an amazing creator launch platform. The moment I put my YouTube link in my TikTok bio, I gained 15,000 followers on YouTube, and it grows every day now.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you? Any plans looking to the future?
NCM: I am going to explore some additional content ideas. But I will never stop what I am doing now. I want to revive the culture of Italy across the world and become an emissary of Italian tradition in people’s homes, wardrobes, kitchens, and lives.
In all of us there is a little Italian who wants to come out and eat pasta.