For his 16th birthday Mateo Zielonka received a copy of The Sopranos Family Cookbook – he never cooked anything from it; as a teenager growing up in Poland, the ingredients were either unobtainable or too expensive. Yet it introduced him to a food culture he came to love, with generous bowls of pasta and bottles of red wine shared by people crowded around a table. Fast forward 10 years and he left a well-paying career in Poland for an OE in London. As backpackers often do, he found work as a dishwasher in a Jewish deli and knew the kitchen was where he belonged – he just didn’t want to wash dishes forever.

Working his way up the ranks, he found himself at the small-plate, handmade pasta restaurant Padella, and revelled in the beauty of bringing together the simplest of ingredients (just flour and eggs), then rolling, shaping and cooking the pasta to perfection, sauced and served.

The cookbook covers the essentials of making pasta (good ingredients and technique), and includes recipes from the basics to the doughs he’s Instagram famous for – the spots and stripes, bows and chevrons.


Although I have a pasta maker, it rarely sees the light of day, and it is in the saucing that The Pasta Man comes into its own. Think the classic caccio e pepe (cheese and pepper) enlivened with fresh mint and a pop of lemon; lasagne lightened by a filling akin to ratatouille; pappardelle coated in glossy blitzed cavolo nero with a ball of burrata to tear open, the creamy filling forming a lemony green sauce.

Mateo may not be Italian, but it’s in Italian food that he found his true love. For that we should be very grateful. FELICITY O’DRISCOLL