Today we continue our journey of perfecting pasta with another authentic Italian pasta called spaghetti alla nerano or spaghetti with fried zucchini.
Ingredients: Serves 2 (Roughly double the amounts for a full pound of pasta, although exact measurements aren't necessary)
6-8 Baby Zucchini (2-3 large), sliced about 1/4 inch thick
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, Sliced Thin
1 Teaspoon, Red Chili Flake
1/2 lb of Spaghetti
1/4 Cup, Parmiggiano Reggiano (grated)
1/2 Cup, Provolone Del Monaco (Imported Provolone works as well)
1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Get a pot of salty water up to boil while you slice the zucchini and garlic and grate the cheeses.
Preheat the largest pan you have on medium - medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Toss in one slice of zucchini as a tester and when it starts to sizzle. Once sizzling, fill the pot up with a layer of the zucchini. If you are making a big batch of this pasta then you may need to do this stage in batches. Manage the heat as needed to make sure the zucchini fry evenly, flipping every few minutes to get even color. Once you start to see the zucchini browning, you can drop in the spaghetti which will take around 10 minutes to cook.
Once the zucchini are browned to your liking, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, season with salt and reserve some of the nicest pieces for garnish. Then drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to cook the garlic in. Once the pasta is about 4 minutes away from being al dente, turn the heat back on and begin to brown the garlic and chili flake in the pan with the oil. Once the garlic has browned, add the zucchini back to the pan. The garlic and oil will infuse the zucchini with flavor. Once the pasta is 1-2 minutes away from being al dente, shut the heat off on the zucchini, then add the pasta to the pan with a ladle or two of the pasta water, put the heat back on and finish cooking the pasta.
Once the pasta is almost al dente, turn the heat off and temper the pasta for 20-30 seconds before adding the cheese. Before you add the cheese you want to make sure you are thinking about 2 important things: 1) if my pan too hot to add the cheese right now? and 2) is there enough pasta water in the pan for the cheese to melt into. If you grated the cheese properly and then make sure the pan isn't too hot and that you've got moisture in the pan to create a sauce, the result should be an extremely creamy sauce without clumping.
After the pasta has cooled, first add the Parmigiano. Sprinkle it in the pan and then immediately stir vigorously to emulsify the cheese with the pasta water. Once that has turned creamy, add the provolone the same exact way. Once the provolone is melted, serve immediately.
Plate in a bowl and garnish with the fried zucchini, fresh basil and if you have, so fresh zucchini flower petals.
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