By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Yesterday, I cooked one of Stanley Tucci’s favorite pasta dishes, Spaghetti alla Nerano, and it was so delicious! Like so many of the recipes I share, this rich vegetarian dish comes with a story. . . .
It was invented by the grandmother of the restaurateur at Restaurant Maria Grazia, which opened in 1901 and overlooks the gorgeous sea of Marina del Cantone—the main bay in Nerano on the Amalfi Coast.
The original recipe is closely guarded and is rumored to include a "secret ingredient" that makes the dish taste as it was originally created. Maybe the secret is the cheese, maybe it's the way it is prepared, maybe leaving the fried zucchini overnight in the fridge creates the unique flavor—I really don’t know. I've compared several versions of the Spaghetti alla Nerano recipe: I've added 1 tablespoon of butter at the last moment, I've mixed Parmigiano with Provolone del Monaco . . . I've tried many variations and believe me, this simple pasta dish is delicious almost every way you make it.
It is creamy, but you don’t use cream. It is so tasty, but you don’t use garlic. I used to always make spaghetti with zucchini in the Sicilian way—just adding garlic and chili pepper—but this is so much better! I’m happy to share the recipe inspired by Stanley’s favorite dish. I’m sure he’d like this version, and I know you’ll love it too!
Spaghetti alla Nerano
2 cups or more of sunflower oil
10 small zucchini
Fresh basil leaves, chopped Salt
Dollop of butter Extra virgin olive oil 1 lb (500 g) spaghetti
4 tbs grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Wash the zucchini and slice into round, thin slices with a mandoline slicer.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
Deep fry the zucchini slices in the oil until golden brown. Remove and place on paper towels, sprinkling with salt.
Place the zucchini in a bowl. Let the fried zucchini rest overnight in the fridge. The day after, bring the zucchini to room temperature.
Boil the pasta al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Place the pasta it a large bowl with the zucchini. Add a glug of olive oil, a dollop of butter, the pasta water, and Parmigiano cheese.
Quickly stir the pasta and ingredients to create a nice, creamy sauce.
Add basil and serve.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).