Don’t let first impressions fool you! Spaghetti alla Nerano is not just a dish of ordinary spaghetti with courgettes. The provolone (a cheese originating in Casilli near Vesuvius, where it is still produced in pear, sausage or cone shapes, 10 to 15 cm long) gives them an irresistible creamy-sweet note. Such a recipe can, of course, not remain a secret.
Never say “spaghetti alle zucchine”
We find ourselves in the 1950s. In her small restaurant in the bay of Nerano, Maria Grazia served her guests spaghetti with courgettes. But she did not prepare the pasta with pecorino, as was customary in Campania, but with provolone del Monaco: a semi-hard cheese made from fresh cow's milk, typical for the Sorrento area. The cheese made the spaghetti heavenly creamy. Word spread. And nobody dared to call them spaghetti alle zucchine anymore. The name would be too common for such a culinary experience.
The false monks
The area of Naples, especially the mountains in the hinterland, has been a centre of provolone production since the 18th century. The origin of this mild cheese made from cow's milk, which is mostly pear-shaped, is attributed to shepherds from Agerola. When the shepherds and farmers brought their cheese to the town for sale, they protected themselves from the weather and the cold with heavy, dark coats. In these clothes they looked like monks. Their cheese soon became known as the cheese del Monaco, of the monk
Tips for perfect Pasta alla Nerano
The recipe is very simple. But for the optimal taste, you should consider a few things. Larger courgettes often have a bitter aftertaste, which can affect the desired sweetness of the dish. Therefore choose small courgettes. It is best to taste them before you start preparing them. In some recipes the courgettes are breaded before frying: an attempt to combine marinated courgettes in the Neapolitan style with spaghetti alla Nerano. But purists fry without breading - and only with the best olive oil.
Spaghetti alla Nerano
- 320 g spaghetti, or other long pasta Bucatini, Bavette, Fusilli napoletani, etc.
- 4 small courgettes
- 200 g provolone, original only with provolone del Monaco
- basil, fresh
- 1 clove garlic
- olive oil, extra virgin
- Cut the courgettes into thin slices and fry them in plenty of olive oil for a few minutes until golden brown. Do not let the oil get too hot. Wash the basil. Dab courgette slices and basil leaves dry with kitchen roll. Mix half of the courgettes with half of the basil using a hand blender until creamy.
- Bring water to the boil, salt it and cook the spaghetti in it until al dente. When the pasta is almost cooked, peel the garlic, press the clove lightly and gently fry it in a large pan with a spoonful of oil. Remove the garlic and put the fried slices of courgette in the pan.
- Drain the spaghetti. Save one glass of pasta water. Add the spaghetti to the courgette slices in the pan and fry for one minute. Reduce heat.
- Mix the grated provolone with the puréed courgettes. Add some hot pasta water until the sauce has a creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt. Now mix the spaghetti and zucchini slices well with the sauce. Garnish with basil and serve warm.