Spaghetti with Zucchini
I spied this recipe for Spaghetti alla Nerano on Food52 a couple of weeks ago and was immediately intrigued. Once or twice a week we try to get the girls to try a new food. We’re also not above a little assistance to make that happen, and pretty much any dish that involves pasta gets us halfway home. Since like most parents we’re generally obsessed with getting them to eat green veggies, our goal for this meal was simple: eat the zucchini.
The first time I made the recipe I stayed mostly faithful to the original and found it a little on the dry side. I’m a big fan of dishes that use green vegetables as the sauce base, so in my second attempt I upped the amount of zucchini in general and in the purée in particular. I made a few other minor changes from the original recipe, so this version really can’t claim the “alla Nerano” name in the Food52 recipe. But I can live with that, especially after getting Willa and Phoebe to slurp up a hearty amount! I suspect we’ll be eating this dish with some regularity for the rest of the summer.
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 large clove of garlic (or two small), cut in half
- 4 medium zucchini (6–8" and 1" in diameter; about 1 lb.), cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/4"-thick half moons
- Kosher salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 oz Caciocavallo cheese, grated on coarse side of a box grater
- 1 lb. fresh spaghetti
- 1/2 oz. basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- Place a large pot filled with water over high heat for the pasta. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt (1 Tbsp kosher salt per gallon).
- While the water is coming up to a boil, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic halves and cook until the garlic becomes evenly browned on all sides. Remove garlic and place into a small food processor.
- Take around 1/3 of the zucchini and carefully add to the pan with the oil. Sauté this batch of zucchini for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the squash is just cooked through. Remove the pan from heat. With a slotted spoon, add this zucchini to the food processor. Purée the garlic and zucchini together until totally smooth.
- Place the pan back on the burner over medium-high heat. Once the oil in the pan is hot again, add the rest of the zucchini half-moons. Try to arrange the zucchini so they are laying as flat as possible, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes until they are just starting to brown. Give the zucchini a stir, trying to flip as many of the pieces over as possible, and allow to cook for two more minutes. Remove the pan from heat and with a slotted spoon place the zucchini on a plate, trying to spread them out as much as possible (you don't want them to pile up and steam too much more).
- Start cooking your spaghetti. This should only take a few minutes if using fresh pasta (if using dry, start cooking your pasta before step 4). Just before draining, remove around 1 to 2 cups of the pasta water and set aside.
- Drain the pasta and add it to a large bowl, along with any remaining oil from the pan, the zucchini-garlic purée, basil leaves, and a ladle or two of water, taking care not to make it too soupy. Give this a stir, then add the cheese and toss to combine. Add more water if necessary, check your seasoning, and serve the pasta in bowls or a large plates, topped off with the remaining zucchini slices divided among the portions.
- Note this amount will give you some leftover lunches for the week if only serving four. It heats up well in a microwave.
- You can of course substitute linguine or even angel hair for the spaghetti, but with so few ingredients in the dish it's definitely worth buying fresh pasta, whatever your choice.
- If you can't find Caciocavallo cheese, you can use a sharp provolone mixed with a little Parmesan.