Saturday, April 13 2024

Spaghetti alla Nerano is a vegetarian recipe from Campania, for a very tasty first course, very similar to cacio e pepe, with the addition of zucchini, first fried by dipping in extra virgin olive oil (as the original recipe calls for), and then sautéed in a pan with oil and garlic.

The spaghetti only needs to be softened in boiling salted water, but the second half of the cooking is done in the pan, along with the zucchini and garlic, using the risotto technique (risottatura), adding a ladle of spaghetti cooking water as needed.

Risottatura allows the pasta to absorb the flavors of the sauce much better, and gives a much more bound pasta, both in texture and flavor.

In this dish, in addition to the risottatura, the perfect binding occurs with the subsequent mantecatura, which creates a creamy, mouthwatering film that coats the spaghetti and zucchini, amplifying the enjoyment.

Nerano is the name of a small town in Massa Lubrense (NA), where it is said that Prince Pupetto, a famous character of Campania’s 1950s nightlife, entered the Da Maria Grazia restaurant one evening, where he was a regular, but wanted to go to the kitchen to prepare a special spaghetti dish himself for his friends.The ingredients he found were the last zucchini picked from the summer garden, leftover local cheese and basil, and with these few ingredients he invented one of the most famous pasta recipes in the world.

The original recipe for Nerano calls for provolone del Monaco cheese, a Campania PDO produced in the Sorrento Peninsula-Monti Lattari area by Agerolese cows; the result is a semi-hard, stringy, aged cheese.

The name, so distinctive, probably comes from the fact that the Sorrentine cheesemakers, when they arrived at the market to sell their cheese, covered their heads with a sack hood to protect themselves from the cold: hence “del monaco,” because the cheesemakers looked like monks.

In this recipe it gives a quid more than Parmigiano, because it melts much more easily and spins, creating the dish’s characteristic creaminess.








  • 14 oz of Spaghetti (Gragnano is good)
  • 2 lbs of zucchini
  • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 7 oz of Provolone cheese (Original recipe called Provolone del Monaco)
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp of salt
  • ground black pepper to taste




Wash the zucchini, trim them and cut them into fairly thin rounds, no thicker than 1 mm. Dry them between two sheets of paper towels to remove some of the moisture.

Put the oil in a high-sided saucepan, heat it until small bubbles form around a toothpick inserted in the oil. Place a handful of zucchini in the oil and fry them until they are crisp and slightly dark at the edges. Proceed with only a few zucchini at a time, otherwise the oil temperature will drop too low.

Drain the zucchini from the oil and place them in a frying pan with the garlic clove, peeled, stripped of its inner core and lightly crushed.

Boil the spaghetti.

Saute the spaghetti with the sauce.

Boil spaghetti in plenty of salted water, but drain 6 minutes before the end of the cooking time indicated on the package. However, do not discard the cooking water; drain the spaghetti with a fork and put it directly into the pan with the zucchini.

Add a ladleful of the cooking water to the pan with the spaghetti and zucchini, turn up the heat to high, and sauté until the spaghetti is fully cooked.

Turn off the heat and add half a ladleful of cooking water and grated cheese, stir vigorously until a creamy sauce forms.

Serve with more grated Provolone, two fresh basil leaves per plate and a sprinkling of black pepper.

How to store spaghetti alla Nerano
These spaghetti do not keep very well: the sauce thickens and separates, and the spaghetti becomes sticky and overcooked.

However, if you have leftovers, try sautéing them, over high heat, in a nonstick skillet to form a delicious crust.

Tips and variations
To make the perfect cream cheese, you need to work over low heat and mix very vigorously.

If you are not experienced, add the cooking water little by little, but everything must be done quickly and you must never stop stirring.

These are the same tricks used with cacio e pepe to achieve a perfect emulsion.



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Stanley Tucci is Committed to Maintaining his Acting Career alongside his Efforts in the Culinary World

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