Stanley Tucci's favorite zucchini pasta dish is a creamy cheesy delight. Here's how to make it.

Spaghetti alla Nerano became a famous pasta dish after actor Stanley Tucci spotlighted it on his show Searching for Italy. (Photos: Getty Images)
When actor Stanley Tucci visited Nerano, a small Italian village near the Amalfi Coast, while filming his popular CNN series Searching for Italy, he probably didn't expect to turn a regional pasta into an international sensation.
But that's exactly what happened when the legendary actor walked into Lo Scoglio da Tommaso restaurant years ago and ate a plate of zucchini spaghetti, known in Italy as spaghetti alla Nerano. In the first episode of the series, the Hunger Games actor couldn't stop raving about how good the pasta was with its creamy sauce and tender chunks of zucchini.
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While many have tried to replicate the pasta in their own homes, Chris Cutler, travel editor at Live in Italy Magazine, has perfected the cheesy dish. Cutler has a few tips for making the pasta at home.
For starters, she tells Yahoo Life, "you won't find most cheeses in the United States."
The regional recipe uses Provolone del Monaco, a semi-hard cheese made from milk from cows in the province of Naples that is very difficult to find in the United States. "I like to use pecorino romano cheese, although I also use parmesan depending on what I have," says Cutler. She also mentions that the type of pasta doesn't really matter for the home cook, dried or fresh, spaghetti or linguine, the dish will be delicious either way.
One of the most important parts of the recipe is slicing the zucchini paper-thin. “I use a knife,” says Cutler, “but some of my slices are thicker and some are thinner. [Cooks] like to make [the slices] as thin as possible.”
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The sauce is made from a mixture of cheese and pasta water, which Cutler says is easier to mix with the pasta if you have two basic tools. "I use toothed tongs and a large spoon," she says, adding that mixing the pasta and sauce should be like tossing a salad and brushing everything well before serving.
After reading several recipes and of course watching Tucci prepare the dish on Instagram, I wanted to try zucchini spaghetti myself. A bonus? The food didn't seem too challenging and didn't have a laundry list of ingredients like many other Americanized pasta dishes do.
I gathered all my ingredients: zucchini, pasta, cheese, oil, basil, salt and pepper and got to work.
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While Cutler says she slices her zucchini with a knife, I used a mandolin to make the slices as thin as possible and make sure all the slices were the same size. After slicing, I put some olive oil in a deep frying pan to heat it up - the original dish calls for the zucchini to be deep fried, but I don't have a deep fryer in my kitchen at home, so I improvised.
I pan fried the zucchini in batches, which helped keep the pan from overcrowding and allowed the zucchini to brown with crispy edges instead of just steaming. As each batch was done, I placed them on a paper towel-lined plate to allow excess oil to drain. When both batches were done, I tossed the zucchini together with thin ribbons of basil (a cutting technique chefs call chiffonade).
My fried zucchini and thinly sliced ​​basil. (Photo: Megan duBois)
While the zucchini was frying, I brought a large pot of water to a boil and salted the water liberally to ensure the noodles had flavor before tossing them with the sauce. As the water boiled, I added my pasta—angel hair, because that's what I had on hand.
I drained the cooked angel hair and placed it in a skillet, being careful not to discard the water right away as I would need it for the sauce. Once all the pasta was in the pan, I added the basil and zucchini mixture and started to mix everything together. Add in about a cup of reserved pasta water and the cheese and I tossed it all together until the sauce was creamy and coating the pasta and zucchini. I put the noodles in large bowls and topped them with more shredded cheese and a few more basil pieces before dunking.
My finished version of Stanley Tucci's favorite pasta. (Photo: Megan duBois)
Pasta alla Nerano wasn't a dish I expected much from, especially since it lacked the traditional heavy red sauce I'm used to with pasta. But my family and I devoured it and there were no leftovers in sight. The sauce is light but creamy and still very filling. I can't wait to make this again for friends and family who I know will be asking where I got the recipe from. I'll say, "Stanley Tucci told me about it."
Spaghetti to Nerano
Courtesy of Live in Italy magazine
Ingredients:
12 ounces zucchini
9 ounces of pasta
8 ounces Caciocavallo or Pecorino Romano cheese
Olive oil for frying the zucchini (the original recipe uses sunflower oil)
basil leaves, torn
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Instructions:
Cut the zucchini into thin coins. They should be about 1/8 inch thick. If you're using a mandolin, make sure they're all the same thickness.
Heat the oil and put some of the coins in it. Cook until light brown in color. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat until all zucchini is cooked. Mix the torn basil and zucchini in a bowl.
While the zucchini is frying, heat a pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain, but reserve some of the pasta water.
Drain most of the oil from the pan and add the pasta and zucchini. Add a ladleful of pasta water and stir.
Add the cheese, salt and pepper to the mixture and mix thoroughly. Add more pasta water if needed to make the sauce smoother.
Serve on a plate. Sprinkle with more grated cheese and sprinkle with the pasta or more basil.
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Stanley Tucci
US-American actor

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