Ferragosto in Sorrento
This coming Ferragosto I am going to prepare the delicious “Spaghetti alla Nerano” for my husband and some family members.
This legendary pasta made of spaghetti and fried zucchini was apparently invented in 1952 by Maria Grazia, who owned a restaurant in Nerano that bears her name.
It is a typical dish that my “nonna” was used to prepare for the family dinner that she organized on the 15th of August in order to celebrate the “Assumption Day”.
And this year I want to share her famous recipe:
1 clove garlic
½ cup (125 milliliters) olive oil
4 to 5 small zucchini, sliced into very thin rounds
Salt and pepper
11 ounces (320 grams) spaghetti
3 ounces (80 grams) grated Provolone del Monaco (or Parmesan)
Knob of cold, unsalted butter
Handful of basil leaves
Put a large pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti.
In a wide skillet over medium-high heat, add the garlic clove and olive oil so the mixture sizzles and the oil gets infused by the garlic. When just golden, remove the garlic and add the zucchini rounds. Toss every now and then, letting the zucchini fry away until tender but not brown.
In the meantime, add a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water, then place spaghetti in the pot.
Drain the zucchini on paper towels and season with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Keep warm. Blend together about a third of the zucchini and about 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) of water from the pot of pasta—I use a glass jar with a handheld blender for this. Pour this purée into a large serving bowl, where you will eventually add all the pasta.
When the spaghetti is al dente (take out about 1 minute before the suggested cooking time on the packet), drain, saving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti into the serving bowl with the purée, the grated cheese, the fried zucchini, and the cold butter. Quickly toss, using tongs or a spatula to help you. You want spaghetti to be silky and just coated with the purée, not dry but not watery either.
If it's too dry, add cooking water a little at a time. Top with the basil leaves and serve immediately.