This authentic Spaghetti alla Nerano recipe is from Nerano near Naples! This famous Italian pasta recipe features provolone cheese and a secret ingredient: fried zucchini! It’s a cheesy pasta with an unforgettable umami flavor.
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In Italian? Discover Spaghetti Alla Nerano, Ricetta Originale!
How to Make Spaghetti Alla Nerano: Recipe
Prepare the Zucchini
The secret ingredient that makes the traditional Spaghetti alla Nerano recipe so unique is fried zucchini! By frying the zucchini slices, the resulting zucchini chips have a concentrated flavor. Then, we use those zucchini chips to infuse the water where we finish cooking the spaghetti. Ideally, you should slice the fresh zucchini with a mandolin.
Make it Faster: Buy Zucchini Chips
You can prepare this dish more quickly by purchasing fried zucchini chips that are unseasoned or seasoned only with salt. If the chips have salt, be sure not to over salt the dish. Obviously, the traditional way to prepare Spaghetti alla Nerano is to fry the zucchini yourself.
Prepare the Cheeses
Grate the provolone cheese. Monaco provolone is the traditional cheese for this dish. It is a cheese from Naples, similar to caciocavallo. It has a slight peppery flavor and melts wonderfully! Substitute a smoked provolone if you can’t find this cheese at a specialty cheese shop.
You’ll also want to finely grate the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese at this time.
Fry the Zucchini
Fry the zucchini in batches at 350°F / 180°C until golden. Set them aside on an absorbent towel and lightly salt them. Deep fryers are cheap and ideal for this job!
Zucchini is watery and will quickly drop the oil temperature when they are added. If you are frying the zucchini in a pan (instead of a temperature-controlled deep fryer), you’ll want to monitor the temperature and raise the heat again before each new batch is added.
Make the Sauce
Cover the bottom of a large pan with olive oil and sauté a clove of garlic over low heat. You can leave the ‘sweater on’ the garlic, as they say in Italian, which just means leaving the skin on the garlic clove! This ensures that the garlic flavor is mild. Infuse the oil with the garlic for a couple of minutes.
Set aside a handful of the fried zucchini for garnish. Add the rest of the fried zucchini to the pan with the garlic and oil. Toss briefly and cook them over low heat with 2 ladles of the hot pasta water. In the meantime…
Cook the Pasta
Cook the spaghetti for 3/4 of the time required for ‘al dente’ pasta. This time will be on the package instructions.
Transfer the partially cooked spaghetti to the pan with the zucchini along with two more ladles of pasta water. Finish cooking the pasta in the pan, adding more water as needed.
Add the Cheeses
Remove the pasta from the heat and add the provolone and parmigiano cheeses along with another ladle or two of hot pasta water.
Mix the cheese with the pasta until it has melted and you’ve got a creamy pasta sauce!
Top the plated dish with the fried zucchini that you set aside. You can also top with some leaves of fresh basil (optional). Buon appetito!
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Spaghetti Alla Nerano Recipe: Pasta with Zucchini and Provolone
- 1 Large Skillet
- 1 Large Pot
- 1 ½ lb zucchini thinly sliced
- 5 oz provolone cheese traditionally, 'provolone del Monaco'; shredded
- 1 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese finely grated
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 4 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 11 oz spaghetti
- 1 pinch fine salt or to taste
- frying oil an oil with a high smoke point like safflower or sunflower
Fry the Zucchini
- Slice the zucchini very thin, like potato chips.1 ½ lb zucchini, 1 pinch fine salt
- Fry the zucchini in batches at 350°F / 180°C until golden. Transfer the fried zucchini to absorbent towels and lightly salt. Don’t rest them on top of each other. Set aside.frying oil
Grate the Cheeses
- Shred the provolone and finely grate the Parmigiano cheese. Set the cheeses aside.5 oz provolone cheese, 1 oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Partially Cook the Pasta
- Cook the pasta ¾ of the time recommended for ‘al dente’ on the package instructions. In the meantime…11 oz spaghetti
Sauté the Garlic and Zucchini
- Cover the bottom of a large pan with olive oil. Over low heat, sauté a clove of garlic ‘sweater on’ as they they in Italian! This just means leaving the skin on the garlic clove.1 clove fresh garlic, 4 tbsp olive oil
- After the garlic has infused the oil with flavor (a couple of minutes), add all but a handful of the fried zucchini to the pan. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the zucchini. Immediately add 2 ladles of the hot pasta water to the zucchini and oil. Cook for a couple of minutes to infuse the water with the zucchini flavor.
Finish Cooking the Pasta in the Pan
- Transfer the spaghetti (cooked ¾ of the way) to the pan with the zucchini.
- Add 2 more ladles of hot pasta water to the pan. Finish cooking the pasta until the spaghetti is cooked to ‘al dente.’
Finish the Pasta with Cheese
- Remove the spaghetti from the heat. Add the provolone and Parmigiano cheeses along with another ladle or two of hot pasta water.
- Mix the cheese with the pasta until it has melted and you’ve got a creamy pasta sauce!
- Top with the fried zucchini that you previously set aside and some leaves of fresh basil (optional). Buon appetito!