Southern Italians are serious about their gardens, and this time of year, it’s all about the trifecta: tomatoes, eggplant and squash. While eggplant can be a finicky one, giving much one year and barely anything the next, tomatoes and squash are dependably generous crops.
Maybe you’ve been the receiver of a gift of a bag or basket from a sweet neighbor happy to share; or maybe you’ve plunged a spade into the soil and are dealing with your tangle of plants, so pregnant with fruit that you can barely find them through the vine-y forest that’s crept up in the sunny days of summer.
Zucchini, in particular, can be a bit of a conundrum. How much ratatouille and zucchini bread and zucchini muffins can one person consume?
This month, one of our staffers was lucky enough to hit up the Amalfi Coast and returned with tales of a simple but gloriously delicious pasta dish from a pretty little beach town called Nerano on the Bay of Salerno. We were intrigued, and got to work looking up recipes to mimic her memory. With so much zucchini on our hands (and available at our favorite local farm stands), there was no time to waste.
It was so damn delicious, it’s now on permanent Southforker rotation.
The key to the dish’s flavor: taking a little bit of pasta cooking water and sautéed zucchini, pureeing them together and tossing the slurry into hot, cooked noodles, along with shredded provolone and bits of fresh basil. It’s a subtle but pervasive sauce that highlights and stretches the flavor of the ripe, summer zucchini that’ll have you begging for more of the ubiquitous fruit you once tried to give away.
Hunt down a chilly bottle of Campania’s Fiano di Avellino — or keep it local with Channing Daughter’s 2019 Vino Bianco — and toast to the coast.
Pasta alla Nerano
- 2 to 3 medium zucchini, sliced thinly
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz provolone cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 12 oz spaghetti
- salt, for the water and to taste