Each summer when we find ourselves with an abundance of zucchini, we make a Stanley Tucci-inspired pasta. It’s truly the best way to fall in love with the versatile vegetable.
We first saw the pasta on an episode of Tucci’s show, Searching for Italy. He tried spaghetti alla Nerano—spaghetti with zucchini from Nerano, a tiny fishing village on the Amalfi Coast—and declared it “one of the best things I’ve ever had in my life.” He’s not wrong. It’s delicious.
Since then, we’ve seen his followers recreate the recipe all over social media as you can see @amateurgourmet do in the TikTok video below. And it’s been turning zucchini skeptics into believers, especially since it’s so quick and easy to make: sliced zucchini are pan-fried and tossed with pasta, fresh basil, and lots of Parmesan. That’s it.
We love zucchini and lucky for us, because of the sheer amount growing in our aunt’s flourishing garden, we never know when five pounds of it will grace our doorstep. So, we plan on eating a lot of this pasta all summer long.
How To Make Stanley Tucci’s Spaghetti with Zucchini
To serve four to six, you’ll need:
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 to 5 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
- 1 pound spaghetti or thin spaghetti
- 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh basil, for serving
Add the olive oil to a large skillet, just enough to lightly coat the bottom. Set it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is rippling but not smoking, add the zucchini and cook for three to four minutes on each side or until golden brown. You will need to do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the skillet, preventing the zucchini from browning.
Transfer the cooked zucchini onto a paper towel-lined plate. When the skillet cools, we like to wipe it using a paper towel to reduce the amount of oil, but you can leave it as is.
While the zucchini cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, following the package instructions.
Add the fried zucchini back to the skillet set over medium heat. Use tongs to add the cooked spaghetti to the zucchini along with 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Cook the pasta, stirring frequently with the tongs, until the liquid mostly evaporates.
Add the butter and grated Parmesan and cook for another minute, stirring until the sauce thickens and the pasta looks glossy. Season the pasta with salt and pepper to taste. The texture of the quick sauce is silky and luxurious. With just a hint of salt and pepper, the sweet zucchini flavor shines.
Serve immediately with torn fresh basil leaves and more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
3 Tips for Making Pasta With Zucchini
1. Slice the Zucchini Thicker: While most recipes we’ve seen online call for slicing the zucchini thinly, about 1/8 inch, we slice ours on the thicker side, about 1/4 inch. They take longer to fry—about six minutes per side. We like that the zucchini doesn’t completely melt and have more texture and substance the thicker they are sliced.
2. Use Less Oil: Other similar recipes we’ve seen online call for filling the skillet with an inch or two of olive oil to fry the zucchini. We opted for using less oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Of course, you could use any kind of oil you prefer.
3. Skip the Overnight Rest: Some recipes call for refrigerating the pan-fried zucchini overnight to bring out its flavor. We don’t think this step is necessary and still enjoy the pasta immensely.