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Pasta alla Nerano

Use up a few zucchini from the garden with this deceptively simple recipe from the Amalfi Coast. (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

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.

Spaghetti is the typical pasta used, but feel free to use any long noodle, such as linguini, fettuccine or fusilli.

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

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Serves 4 servings


  • 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


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Sauté the zucchini slices, flipping to cook both sides, until just barely golden in spots. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel.
  • Heat a large pot of water to boiling, add in a generous tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta until al dente (follow the package directions). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water from the pot, and drain the rest. Set the pasta aside, covered.
  • Using an immersion blender or food processor blend one third to half of the zucchini slices with about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
  • In a large serving bowl, immediately toss the warm pasta with the zucchini mix, provolone and basil until well-combined.
  • Top with the remaining zucchini slices, a little grated provolone and a few basil leaves. Buon appetito!