We’re more than a little in love with Stanley Tucci’s series “Searching for Italy.” It’s not only the sight, sound, and taste that comes with traveling, it’s the experience of food prepared among centuries of tradition, innovations that evolve organically, and ingredients that are either grown or handcrafted to perfection. Most importantly, it’s the pasta, the wine, and the simple pleasures of eating delicious food narrated by Tucci and knowing that when he takes a bite, closes his eyes, and smiles we are right there with him.
Inspired by the series, we’ve created four pasta dishes for TABLE readers. The first, Spaghetti alla Nerano, is a playful dish that only requires a handful of ingredients and solves for your overabundance of late summer zucchinis. It’s crisp, creamy, and best enjoyed with the slight and dry acidity that comes with a Greco di Tufo or Vermentino di Gallura.
When you make it for yourself, picture this: The August sun sets at a shoreline restaurant on the Italian island of Ponza, turning the sky coral and orange. Candle lanterns are hung from the rafters of a striped canvas awning. Deep fuschia wisteria blooms all around you. The wake of boats returning to harbor break gently on the pebbly shore just feet away. As if this isn’t already paradise, a waiter brings out a bottle of cold Greco di Tufo. And quickly thereafter plates of spaghetti dotted with thin slices of zucchini that are somehow both crispy and tender, caramelized and juicy. He provides final flavor flourishes with a twist or two of black pepper and a blizzard of freshly grated cheese. You can imagine the rest: a feeling of well-being deeper than the sea itself.
4 zucchini, medium, thinly sliced into rounds
1 1/2 cups vegetable or neutral oil
½ cup of Provolone cheese, finely grated
1 lb of pasta
2 tbsp of Butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh basil, gently cut to avoid bruising
Salt and Pepper
Fry zucchini rounds in vegetable oil until golden brown. Rest on a paper towel. Season with salt.
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water.
In a deep pan, sauté the garlic in butter. Add al dente pasta directly from boiling water. Add a ladle of pasta water.
Cook the pasta over med heat for two minutes then add the provolone. Blend until creamy. Turn off heat. Add pepper and basil and gently fold into pasta.
Serve immediately and enjoy.
Story by Gabe Gomez/ Photography by Dave Bryce/ Food styling by Veda Sankaran/ Prop styling by Keith Recker/ Bowl by Billy Ritter/ Wine pairing by Adam Knoerzer.