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'Everyone Needs A Nonna': Joe Reveals His 'MasterChef' Secret Weapon

Pasta king Joe Alhern told us all about the incredible woman who inspired his food journey.

Speaking to 10 daily over the phone, Joe revealed that his cooking mentor is someone who came into his life about four years ago when he was introduced to his girlfriend's big Italian family.

"I was actually vegetarian for five years and then, when I started dating my girlfriend, she said ‘That’s not going to last very long with Nonna.’"

Joe soon met his girlfriend's grandmother -- Nonna Angela -- who puts together a big meal for the family every Thursday night with a bowl of fresh pasta and homemade pesto, or a beef ragu, placed in the middle of the table.

Nonna Angela is a gnocchi taskmaster. Photo: Network 10.

"The pesto I could eat but if it was a ragu or something like that, I couldn't try it because I was vegetarian," explained Joe. 

But curiosity -- and, presumably, the tantalising smell -- got the better of him, and Nonna Angela tempted Joe to start eating meat again.

"I tried the fresh pasta and it was just phenomenal, best pasta I’ve ever tried in my life," he said. 

"So that’s when I started thinking, ‘I want to learn how to do this myself’."

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Joe started helping out Nonna Angela in the kitchen, learning how to make ravioli, agnolotti and gnocchi like a pro.

"It's really fun to work with her in the kitchen, but of course she’s a nonna as well so she’s stern, she wants it done the right way.

"She won’t be nice and tell me, 'You’ve done good enough, Joe', she’ll let me know if I’ve done something wrong," he laughed. 

The Nonnas are here! Photo: Network 10.

Joe's kitchen training with Nonna Angela prepared him for tonight's 'MasterChef' episode, a team challenge where two famous nonnas drop by to act as ~secret weapons~ for the Italian-based cook -- Nonna Rosa Mitchell (Rosa's Canteen) and Nonna Olimpia Bortolotto (Cecconi's).

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"I think I was being very polite around Nonna Olimpia because it reminded me of being around my girlfriend’s Nonna," Joe told 10 daily. 

"I remember one time I was making gnocchi with Nonna and she had to tell me about four or five times that I was rolling the gnocchi incorrectly," he said, adding that he was on his "best behaviour". 

Joe said that having Nonna Olimpia around for the challenge was "just the best asset we could have had".

"Everyone needs a nonna!" he laughed. 

MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Thursday nights at 7.30pm. Only On 10 And WIN Network. Missed an episode? Catch up on 10 Play or 10 All Access!