Spaghetti Alla Nerano

4 people
30 min

This spaghetti alla nerano is one of the best-kept Italian secrets! This fried zucchini & basil pasta is popular among the Amalfi coast. Make this at home in 30 minutes or less!

Spaghetti alla nerano is truly one of the most decadent yet simple Italian pastas I've ever had! The dish became very popular recently due to Stanley Tucci's new show, 'Searching for Italy.'


This pasta is traditionally made by slowly sizzling sliced zucchini in olive oil, then tossing that with spaghetti, grated provolone cheese, parmesan, and basil. The flavors come together so wonderfully! Make this even more authentic by using Homemade Fresh Pasta!


I made sure to include how to make spaghetti alla nerano completely vegan by using vegan cheeses, but you're more than welcome to use the regular cheeses!


Why you'll love this recipe
  • Authentic & Unique - This dish is a very authentic Italian recipe, but it's also so much more unique than lots of other Italian pastas!
  • Simple - Some Italian pastas can be quite difficult to master. Spaghetti alla nerano is SO easy!
  • Flavorful - The flavors in this dish are so satisfying and delicious. The salt from the cheeses, the sweetness of the basil, and the natural zucchini flavor.

What you need for this recipe
Ingredients and Substitutions
  • Spaghetti - If using a boxed pasta, I highly recommend finding a good-quality, Italian made pasta. Otherwise, try making your own spaghetti at home!
  • Zucchini - The most authentic route is to use the smaller, more firm zucchinis. However, if you can't get those, a regular zucchini is fine!
  • Garlic - Use fresh garlic cloves, avoid using pre-minced.
  • Olive Oil - Use a high-quality, Italian olive oil.
  • Parmesan - For the vegan version I used the VioLife parmesan block and grated it. For real dairy, find a high quality parmigiano reggiano.
  • Provolone - For the vegan version, I used VioLife smoked provolone slices, then sliced them very thinly. You could also use a vegan mature cheddar. For the dairy version, use good quality Italian Provolone del Monaco.
  • Basil Leaves - Fresh basil leaves, don't use dried basil.

How to make this recipe
Step 1: Prepare Ingredients

Begin by thinly slicing the zucchini into round coin-shaped pieces.


Layer a plate or cutting board with paper towels. Place the zucchini coins on the paper towels in rows.


Sprinkle fine salt over the zucchini and let it sit for 10 minutes, until water begins to extract. Flip the coins and repeat.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook spaghetti according to box instructions until al dente. Drain and reserve a small amount of pasta water.


Finely mince garlic cloves.


Grate the cheeses. If using vegan provolone slices, use a sharp knife to finely slice it, emulating shreds.


Step 2: Fry Zucchini

In a large pan or heavy-bottomed pot, add ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil.


Heat the oil over medium, without letting it get too hot.


Pat the salted zucchini slices completely dry, then carefully add the slices to the hot olive oil.


The zucchini should gently sizzle in the oil. Let it simmer in the oil until it becomes slightly golden.


Remove the zucchini with a slotted spoon or spatula.


Place torn basil and the fried slices on a paper towel-lined plate.


Step 3: Make the sauce

Use a measuring cup to remove about ½ cup of olive oil.


Return the pan to the stove and keep the heat on low.


Add minced garlic and sauté until just slightly golden.


Toss in the cooked spaghetti with the oil and garlic.

Add both of the cheeses as well as the butter and stir until melted.


Mix in the fried zucchini slices and torn basil. Toss until well combined, adding pasta water if needed.

Taste and season with more salt (as needed) and pepper. Serve hot and enjoy immediately!

Expert Tips and Tricks
  • Don't skip the step of salting the zucchini slices. This helps to extract the excess water in the zucchini, making it easier to fry and turn out crispier!
  • Only use fresh basil leaves! Using dried basil will not yield the correct flavor.
  • Be careful with the amount of salt that you add. Because the pasta water should be heavily salted, the zucchini slices are also salted, and the cheeses are salty the end dish shouldn't need too much more, if any. Be sure to taste before adding extra seasoning.

Recipe FAQs
Is spaghetti alla nerano vegetarian or vegan?

Using traditional dairy ingredients, this dish is fully vegetarian if you make sure that the cheeses do not contain rennet. To make this dish vegan, I include non-dairy options!

Can I make this gluten-free?

To make this dish gluten-free, just substitute gluten-free spaghetti! Luckily, none of the other ingredients contain gluten.

How long does this keep?

Store any leftover pasta and sauce in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Be aware that the zucchini may become a bit soggy overtime.


Related Recipes

Easy Vegan Spaghetti Carbonara

Creamy Vegan Tuscan Pasta (Instant Pot)

Creamy Tahini Pasta

Instant Pot Pearl (Israeli) Couscous

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Recipe details

  • 4  people
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 10 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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Ingredients


  • ▢ 8 oz Spaghetti
  • ▢ 2 cups Zucchini sliced
  • ▢ 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • ▢ 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ▢ 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano OR Vegan Violife Parmesan
  • ▢ 1/2 cup Provolone del Monaco OR Vegan Violife Smoked Provolone Slices
  • ▢ 6-8 leaves Fresh basil
  • ▢ 1 tablespoon Butter OR Vegan butter

Instructions


Begin by thinly slicing the zucchini into round coin-shaped pieces.
Layer a plate or cutting board with paper towels. Place the zucchini coins on the paper towels in rows.
Sprinkle fine salt over the zucchini and let it sit for 10 minutes, until water begins to extract. Flip the coins and repeat.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook spaghetti according to box instructions until al dente. Drain and reserve a small amount of pasta water.
Finely mince garlic cloves.
Grate the cheeses. If using vegan provolone slices, use a sharp knife to finely slice it, emulating shreds.
In a large pan or heavy-bottomed pot, add ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil.
Heat the oil over medium, without letting it get too hot.
Pat the salted zucchini slices completely dry, then carefully add the slices to the hot olive oil.
The zucchini should gently sizzle in the oil. Let it simmer in the oil until it becomes slightly golden.
Remove the zucchini with a slotted spoon or spatula. Place the slices on a paper towel-lined plate.
Use a measuring cup to remove about ½ cup of olive oil.
Return the pan to the stove and keep the heat on low.
Add minced garlic and sauté until just slightly golden.
Toss in the cooked spaghetti with the oil and garlic.
Add both of the cheese and stir until melted.
Mix in the fried zucchini slices and torn basil. Toss until well combined, adding pasta water if needed.
Taste and season with more salt (as needed) and pepper. Serve hot and enjoy immediately!

Tips

  • Parmesan - For the vegan version I used the VioLife parmesan block and grated it. For real dairy, find a high quality parmigiano reggiano.
  • Provolone - For the vegan version, I used VioLife smoked provolone slices, then sliced them very thinly. You could also use a vegan mature cheddar. For the dairy version, use good quality Italian Provolone del Monaco.
  • Don't skip the step of salting the zucchini slices. This helps to extract the excess water in the zucchini, making it easier to fry and turn out crispier!
  • Only use fresh basil leaves! Using dried basil will not yield the correct flavor.
  • Be careful with the amount of salt that you add. Because the pasta water should be heavily salted, the zucchini slices are also salted, and the cheeses are salty the end dish shouldn't need too much more, if any. Be sure to taste before adding extra seasoning.

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Comments

  • Jean Jean on Nov 11, 2021

    This is nothing new. I grew up with dish back in the dark ages. It is very good and filling. Great for something different.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kimmi Kimmi on Nov 12, 2021

      Thank you for sharing this wonderful "famiglia" Italian recipe. Nana (Bless her) made this for our large family Sunday Dinners. Many of the family had gardens and squash was always abundant Spring-Summer. You could add grilled shrimp or cooked, crumbled & drained Italian sausage for a change!

  • Jacqueline Jacqueline on Nov 12, 2021

    It’s new to me also, and sounds delicious, will definitely try.

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