Spaghetti alla Nerano

I’m not a big TV person. I mean sure, I was glued to it when Schitt’s Creek was running, but other than that, eh. I could take it or leave it. But, a few weeks ago my husband turned me on (LOL) to Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, and I was hooked. Instantly. Partially because I spent most of this last March in Italy and have been mildly obsessed with the county’s food and lifestyle ever since. 

SIDEBAR: Can you be mildly obsessed? I mean the whole nature of an obsession leads me to think a mild one, really isn’t one at all? Am I right? 

So, in what I believe was the first episode, Tucci visits the Amalfi Coast and while there, he enlists a local chef and makes a simple, yet complex, spaghetti alla Nerano—pasta with fried zucchini served at the legendary Maria Grazia’s restaurant in Nerano. Which just happens to be one of the places I visited and enjoyed one (or two) Aperol spritzers by the sea. As for the simple, yet complex part … the dish itself is simple as it takes only a few, readily-available  ingredients, but complex because one, you really need to start it the day before you’re going to serve it, and two, the flavor profile is, well, complex.

If you are going to make this—which I highly recommend you do, especially as summer gardens are flourishing and farmers markets are full of fresh zucchini—know this, you MUST fry the zucchini one day prior to assembling the dish and you MUST use safflower oil, not olive oil. Oh, and though traditionally the dish uses Provolone, but I prefer Romano, so that’s what I use, although not much. Anyhoo, give it a whirl, it’s sublime. For real : )

Spaghetti alla Nerano

PREP TIME: 1 hour, plus overnight | COOK TIME: 25 minutes the night before; 25 minutes day of—serves 4

  • Fresh zucchini, 3-4 medium sized, sliced thin
  • Safflower oil for frying
  • 3 TBS garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS butter
  • ½ cup fresh basil, torn into pieces
  • ½ cup Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 box spaghetti

In a large Dutch oven or cast iron pan, pour oil so you have a good 2 inches and warm over medium high heat. Slice zucchini so they’re about ¼ inch thick. Once oil is hot, fry in batches each one taking about 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove fried zucchini and place on paper towels. Once cooled, place in large bowl, spoon garlic on top, toss with basil, cover  and refrigerate overnight. 

When ready to serve, cook pasta al dente. NEVER OVERCOOK IT!! While pasta is cooking, place the zucchini mixture in the Dutch oven or cast iron pan. Once the pasta is cooked, drain well then add it to the zucchini with butter and cheese. Toss a few times, then dish immediately with extra basil, and or cheese if you really want. And that’s it. Super delicious. Enjoy!

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Delicious. Absolutely. Amazing. Yum. Truthfully, while this is super easy to make, there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of options. And while this isn’t vegan—I do use shrimp and a little bit of dairy-based cream cheese—I do use plant-based half and half as well as gluten-free pasta to “lighten” it up and…

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