From Italy’s Amalfi Coast, pasta alla nerano features long, thin pasta strands tossed with a velvety sauce made from pureed zucchini. It’s an elegant yet easy dish that’s luxurious but not heavy. That’s because we use the starchy pasta cooking water—blended with sautéed zucchini—to create creaminess without the need for cream, which keeps the dish light.
Look for zucchini that are medium in size, or that weigh about 8 ounces each. Larger zucchini can be too seedy. Medium zucchini yield matchsticks of a good length for the dish. And be sure to seek out a chunk of pecorino and grate it yourself. The flavor will be fresher and fuller than cheese that’s purchased already grated.
If you own an immersion blender, it works well for making the zucchini-garlic puree; simply transfer the ingredients to be blended to a medium bowl. When smooth, return the mixture to the pot.
Use Starchy Pasta Water for Creamy Sauces
Sometimes less is more—especially with pasta. Cooking pasta in less water than typically called for concentrates the starches that leach out of the noodles. That super-starched liquid can be used to create silkier, creamier sauces without the need for additional fat. We often boil pasta in just 3 quarts of water and reserve some before draining. Adding that water to the pasta when tossing with other ingredients creates a silky sauce that clings to the noodles.