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Photo Credit: Meryl Feinstein

Pasta With Fried Zucchini Sauce

15 MINPrep Time
30 MINCook Time
by Meryl Feinstein
Photo Credit: Meryl Feinstein
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This sauce is inspired by spaghetti alla Nerano, a dish born in a small fishing town halfway between Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. It was invented in 1952 by Maria Grazia at her eponymous restaurant, and the original recipe remains a closely guarded secret. In Nerano, the zucchini are smaller, sweeter, and paler in color than what you’ll find in most grocery stores, and the cheese of choice is buttery, semi-aged provolone del Monaco. But even when I tuck into a plate of this less traditional version, Amalfi doesn’t seem so far away.

I like to prep the cheeses in a food processor using the fine grater attachment. If you can’t find caciocavallo (a sharp, spicy, soft, and springy cheese that’s more powerful than mozzarella and tamer than provolone), split the difference with more provolone and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pre-order Meryl's cookbook, Pasta Every Day, at this link!

Pasta With Fried Zucchini Sauce

Pasta With Fried Zucchini Sauce

Rated 5.0 stars by 1 users

Prep Time

15 minutes

Cook Time

30 minutes

Image of Pasta With Fried Zucchini Sauce


  • 1½ pounds (680 grams; about 4 small) zucchini, sliced into thin coins

  • 1¾ ounces (50 grams) finely grated provolone piccante
  • 1¾ ounces (50 grams) finely grated caciocavallo
  • 1¾ ounces (50 grams) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) cold unsalted butter
  • Torn or sliced fresh basil leaves, for serving
  • 1 pound pasta, such as Paccheri


  1. Spread the zucchini slices across a paper towel–lined sheet pan and pat dry. Mix the grated cheeses together in a small bowl.

  2. In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the garlic and fry, stirring often, until tinged gold around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.
  3. Arrange half of the zucchini slices in the pan and fry, flipping occasionally, until tender and some of the pieces start to caramelize, 5 to 7 minutes (you’re not looking for crispy here). Turn down the heat if the zucchini brown too quickly.
  4. Transfer the zucchini to a paper towel–lined plate and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add another splash of oil to the pan and repeat with the remaining slices. Turn off the heat and let the pan cool slightly, then drain off the excess oil and set the pan aside.
  5. Add the reserved garlic and half of the fried zucchini slices to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth.
  6. Cook your pasta of choice until just shy of your liking. While the pasta cooks, return the pan used to fry the zucchini to medium heat. Add the zucchini purée and remaining fried slices, along with 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) pasta cooking water. Bring to a bare simmer and season to taste. Transfer the pasta directly to the sauce (or drain it first and reserve 1 cup (240 ml) pasta cooking water) and toss until well coated, adding more cooking water to loosen as needed. Turn off the heat. Stir in the butter and three-quarters of the cheeses, one handful at a time, reserving the rest for serving. Mix vigorously until melted and emulsified, adding more cooking water as needed.
  7. Divide the pasta among bowls and serve, topped with the basil, remaining grated cheese, and lots of black pepper.
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