Spaghetti with zucchini or what Italians call spaghetti alla Nerano is a simple and delicious zucchini and pasta recipe that originates from a small town called Nerano in Italy. This simple zucchini and spaghetti recipe needs only a few ingredients and it is so full of flavor. This makes a great meal when zucchini is abundant in the summers but I love making anytime of year.
I love all of these recipes with zucchini but the one I do turn to most often is this spaghetti and zucchini pasta. I love the simplicity of this pasta and the fact that it uses only a few ingredients: spaghetti, Parmesan, basil, garlic and olive oil.
Some of my favorite ingredients all in one pasta recipe!
Origins of Pasta Nerano (aka Spaghetti alla Nerano)
As I mentioned earlier in the post, this recipe originates in a small Italian town called Nerano. You probably haven't heard of it but it is said to be beautiful as it is on the Sorrento peninsula which is really gorgeous.
In this small town, a restaurant owner back in the 1950s by the name of Maria Grazia invented the dish Spaghetto alla Nerano. It has become famous recently because of the actor Stanley Tucci who made a documentaary about it and brought it to the attention of the rest of the World.
The Italians have been eating and loving this dish for a while and it is one of my favorites too.
There are only a few ingredients you need for this simple recipe. Try to make sure you buy the best quality ingredients you can find.
Italians try to use what is local and in season as much as possible. This helps ensure simple recipes like this one are full of flavor.
- Zucchini. I grow Italian zucchini in my garden so that is what I used. Make sure to try and find smaller zucchini since it will have the sweetest flavor.
- Parmigiano Reggiano. Using fresh parmigiano reggiano that you grate yourself is always the best option. The other parmigiano reggiano that is already grated is dried out and anything that says Parmesan on it is not from Italy.
- Fresh Basil.
- Fresh Garlic.
- Extra virgin olive oil.
- Kosher salt.
How to make spaghetti Nerano
The first thing you want to do is prepare the zucchini by cutting them into small thin rings. You do not want them to be paper thin but thin.
Because of how thin the zucchini is sliced, much of the cooked zucchini will fall apart into the pasta later when tossed. This helps add to the creamy texture of the pasta.
When making this recipe, the bulk of the time is going to be shallow frying the zucchini slices. You will need to do this in batches since not all of the zucchini will fit in the pan at once.
If you would prefer to not shallow fry the zucchini, you can follow the recipe for my brown butter sautéed zucchini for cooking the zucchini slices.
When the zucchini are done cooking, you add them to paper towels to absorb some of the excess olive oil.
After you have finished frying up the zucchini rings until lightly browned the rest is just cooking the spaghetti and making a quick sauce.
The sauce is not so much a sauce but a garlic flavored olive oil that will add to the flavor of the pasta later on when everything is tossed together.
You want to make sure you reserve about 1 cup of pasta water to add to the pasta and zucchini when they are being tossed together. The pasta water is starchy and it is going to add to the creaminess of the sauce.
Tips for making the best spaghetti with zucchini
- Make sure to reserve about 1 cup of pasta water to add to the pasta when tossing. Adding some of the pasta water ensures your pasta will be creamy and not dry.
- Use the best ingredients you can find. This recipe uses very few ingredients so you want them to be high quality for the best flavor.
- If you cannot find spaghetti for this recipe, penne or rigatoni will work great. I would avoid linguine as it is too slippery for this type of olive oil sauce.
Spaghetti alla Nerano (Spaghetti with Zucchini)
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- 1 lb Spaghetti
- 2 small to medium zucchini sliced into thin rings about ⅛ inches thick
- 1 cup Fresh basil
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper A few swirls
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the spaghetti.
- While you are waiting for the water to boil, prep the zucchini.2 small to medium zucchini
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil.¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
- Once pan is heated, add the zucchini slices in batches to the olive oil and cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes per batch.
- Remove zucchini with a slotted spatula (making sure to leave the olive oil in the pan) and place on to paper towels when they are done cooking. set aside.
- When done cooking the zucchini, reduce heat to low.
- In the same pan you cooked the zucchini, add the butter and garlic to the olive oil.1 tablespoon unsalted butter, 2 cloves of garlic
- Cook for a few minutes to perfume the olive with garlic then remove the garlic from the oil.
- Now cook the spaghetti until al dente.1 lb Spaghetti
- When spaghetti is ready, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain.
- Add spaghetti to the pan with olive oil and toss well.
- Now add the zucchini, parmesan and fresh basil along with salt and pepper and toss together.1 cup Fresh basil, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, Freshly ground black pepper
- Add in half of the pasta water and toss again.
- If pasta looks too dry add remaining pasta water.
- Serve immediately.
Nutrition Values are estimates only.See full nutrition disclaimer here