Spaghetti Alla Nerano is a traditional Italian pasta dish made with fried zucchini and cheese. So creamy, savory, and easy to make that this recipe will become one of your favorites!
What Is Spaghetti Alla Nerano?
The dish pasta Alla Nerano was served for the first time in the 50s in the small bay town of Nerano, in the Sorrentino peninsula.
The ristorante da Maria Grazia invented this amazing pasta recipe using local and seasonal ingredients such as zucchini and cheese Provolone del Monaco. These two ingredients altogether create a delicious creamy sauce that is beyond deliciousness!
Although this is a recipe that has been around for a long time here in Italy, it wasn’t until Stanley Tucci featured it in his travel and food show “Searching For Italy” that it started to have some popularity abroad.
And I am glad he did it! Because you can see how with a few high-quality ingredients you can make an easy and authentic recipe to impress your family and friends.
So, let’s see what you need to make this dish…
Ingredients For Pasta Alla Nerano
- ZUCCHINI – If you can, use zucchine romanesche. Otherwise, use regular Italian zucchini and preferably a mandoline to slice them. They need to be as thin as possible so they won’t absorb so much oil.
- CHEESE – The traditional recipe calls for Provolone del Monaco, a spicy semi-hard cheese from the Sorrento peninsula. However, this cheese has a DOP status. which means is not so easy (or cheap) to find it outside Italy. If you can’t find Provolone del Monaco, use another semi-hard provolone or caciocavallo.
- BASIL – Don’t chop it, instead, tear the leaves with your hands, right into the pan with the pasta.
- PASTA – Spaghetti is the first choice just as the name of this dish indicates. You can add any kind of spaghetti, just make sure don’t overcook it as it needs to finish the cooking in the pan with the condiment.
- OIL – The traditional recipe is made with extra virgin olive oil. But of course, is up to you. You can also use normal olive oil, especially if the extra virgin is expensive where you live or not so easy to find.
- GARLIC – Lightly smashed with the skin on. You need only a subtle aroma, so discard it after, as the recipe suggests.
- SALT – Remember that cheese adds salt as well, so pay attention to not add so much extra.
- PEPPER – Just a little bit right before serving, freshly cracked.
Now, let’s see how to make this simple, yet amazing zucchini spaghetti.
How To Make Nerano Spaghetti
Start by placing a large pot with water over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, start with the recipe…
Using a mandoline slicer, slice finely the zucchini and place on a plate. You can also slice them by hand, just make sure they are as thin as possible.
In a frying pan heat a good amount of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat and fry zucchini until slightly browned.
Make sure you work in small batches, as they can burn easily.
Place fried zucchini on a paper towel-lined plate to drain oil. Once all zucchini are done, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few hand-torn basil leaves.
Add salt to the pot with boiling water and cook the spaghetti until very al dente according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic until fragrant, then remove it from the pan.
Add zucchini to the pan, reserving some for garnish. Pour a ladleful of the pasta cooking water and stir in the zucchini, mix for two minutes to rehydrate the vegetables.
Add pasta, provolone and parmigiano reggiano cheese. Pour another ladleful of the cooking water, and more hand-torn basil and then turn off the heat.
Stir (mantecate) spaghetti thoroughly for one minute or until the cheese has melted and turned into a creamy sauce that perfectly coats the pasta.
Place spaghetti on a serving plate. Top with the remaining zucchini, a little bit of pepper, and more grated parmigiano. And there you go, your spaghetti alla Nerano is ready to be enjoyed!
Useful Tips and Notes
- Work in batches. So the zucchini won’t overcrowd the pan and overlap, preventing them from frying evenly.
- Use a large pan. So you can have plenty of room to stir the pasta with the other ingredients.
- Turn off the heat. Before tossing the spaghetti with the cheese or the provolone will clump quickly and you won’t have that wonderful creamy texture.
- Don’t stop mixing. And I mean vigorously because you need to create that luscious cream and that can be achieved only by mixing, mixing, and mixing.
- Prep, cook, and enjoy. Immediately, this is a meal to be enjoyed just out of the pan, don’t allow it to cool down or the cheese will clump.
Wine To Pair
The best choice is white wine with a fresh and light structure, we recommend some traditional wine from the Campania region.
- Falanghina del Beneventano.
- Ciarariis di Raffaele Palma.
- Il Colle Tramonti Bianco Costa D’Amalfi Ida Giordano.
- Kalimera Ischia Biancolella Cenatiempo.
- Bianco di Bellona Irpinia Coda di Volpe DOC.
Did you know? There’s a popular term in Italian cooking called mantecare, it refers mostly to the act of stirring vigorously some ingredients like butter, cream, or cheese with pasta or rice to develop a creamy texture.
Spaghetti alla Nerano
- 6.5 oz spaghetti
- 2 medium zucchini (tiny sliced)
- ⅔ cup Provolone del Monaco cheese or Caciocavallo (grated)
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (grated)
- 1 garlic clove (slightly smashed and with the skin on)
- Extra virgin olive oil (as needed)
- Salt & pepper (as needed)
- Place a large pot with water over medium-high heat. While waiting for the water to boil proceed with the recipe.
- Heat a good amount of olive oil in a pan over medium heat and fry the zucchini until slightly brown.
- Place zucchini on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Once the zucchini are all fried sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few hand-torn basil leaves.
- Add salt to the pot with water and cook the spaghetti until very al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.
- Stir the garlic until fragrant, then remove it from the pan.
- Add the fried zucchini to the pan, reserving some for garnish.
- Pour a ladleful of the cooking water and cook for about one minute.
- Drain and add the pasta to the pan, then add the provolone and about 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano cheese.
- Pour in another ladleful of the cooking water, and more hand-torn basil. Then turn off the heat.
- Stir vigorously for one minute or until the cheese has melted and turned into a creamy sauce that coats perfectly the pasta.
- Place spaghetti on a serving plate. Garnish with the zucchini you reserved before, freshly cracked pepper, and more Parmigiano cheese.
Can I reuse the oil where I fried the zucchini?
Yes, you can, as long as the oil didn’t heat to the point where it smokes, is still good to use in another dish. More about it here.
Can I store Nerano spaghetti?
We don’t recommend storing this dish, so make sure you make only the portion you intend to eat.
Is pasta alla Nerano a traditional dish?
Yes, it is. Even though is a relatively modern recipe and was invented in the past century, Italians consider this dish traditional and authentic.
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