Today we’re making Spaghetti alla Nerano. Stanley Tucci introduced this dish to many Americans with his “Searching for Italy” show on CNN. My Grandmother made this fresh zucchini dish so many times for us growing up. Traditionally the hard-to-find Provolone del Monaco is used. But we’ll go over a couple of substitutes for this delicious fried zucchini pasta recipe. The best time to make it is during the summer with fresh local zucchini. I hope you enjoy this pasta al Nerano recipe!
▢1 pound spaghetti
▢5 small/medium zucchini sliced into ~3/16″ discs
▢1 ¼ cups Caciocavallo cheese grated – see note below
▢4 cloves garlic
▢¼ cup parsley minced
▢3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
▢¼ cup olive oil for frying zucchini
▢1 tablespoon unsalted butter
▢2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
▢pepper to taste
▢2 cups pasta water reserved – will not need it all, but always save extra
- Fry the zucchini in olive oil until golden brown (about 3 minutes per side) then place in a large pan lined with paper towels. Salt the zucchini right after frying each batch. Working in batches or use multiple pans to speed up the cooking process.
- Cook the spaghetti until very al dente in salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt per gallon of water).
- Meanwhile, heat a large clean pan to medium-low and saute the garlic cloves in 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until golden. Once golden remove and discard the garlic cloves.
- Add the butter, a ladle of pasta water, and half of the zucchini to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Mash the zucchini with a wooden spoon on the side of the pan to create a loose zucchini sauce. Add the pasta wet (pull it right out of the pot with tongs) and continue cooking the al dente pasta for 1-2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the Caciocavallo cheese. Toss to emulsify and form a creamy sauce. If too dry add a couple of tablespoons of pasta water at a time, then toss once more, to get the consistency just right.
- Taste test and make any final adjustments to salt and pepper. Add in the parsley, then serve right away with the remaining zucchini rounds divided into each plate. More grated Caciocavallo or Pecorino Romano can be served on the side. Enjoy!
- When adding the cheese taking the pan off the heat and tossing will help avoid clumping cheese. Adding some of the cooled down pasta water will help loosen the cheese up as well.
- The traditional cheese Provolone del Monaco is too hard to find so caciocavallo is a great substitute. Unfortunately, Caciocavallo could prove difficult to find as well. A more widely available cheese like Pecorino Romano can be used with great success too!
- Save leftovers for up to 3 days in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or gently in a pan on the stovetop.
- The ingredient list indicates reserving 2 cups of pasta water. You will not need to use it all. You can discard the remaining unused pasta water.