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overhead photo of a light pink bowl of spaghetti with courgettes, sprinkled with parmesan and fresh basil

Spaghetti alla nerano

This simple traditional Italian pasta dish, spaghetti alla nerano, with courgettes pan fried in garlic olive oil before being tossed with parmesan and fresh basil, is ready in under 20 minutes, and a delicious vegetarian midweek meal.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Course dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people
Calories 503 kcal


  • 320g (11oz) spaghetti
  • 800g (28oz) courgette/zucchini approx 4-5 small - medium
  • 80g (2.8oz) parmesan grated (Make sure it's vegetarian parmesan if vegetarian)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • handful fresh basil roughly torn
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper


  • Slice the courgette/zucchini into circles around 1 cm (0.4") thick.
  • Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some salt.
  • Cut the garlic clove in half and place in a frying pan with the olive oil. Gently heat until lightly golden.
  • As soon as the garlic is lightly golden, remove from the pan and add the courgettes/zucchini. Take care as they can spit a bit. You may have to cook them in two batches, depending on size of your frying pan.
  • Meanwhile place the spaghetti in the water and cook per packet instructions.
  • Turn the zucchini/courgette occasionally until medium brown and blistered. If you turn them too much they won't achieve this - and this adds flavour!
  • Once brown both sides, remove to kitchen paper towel on a plate to remove excess oil. (Cook the second batch if cooking in batches).
  • Season the cooked zucchini/courgette with salt and black pepper.
  • When the spaghetti is cooked to al dente, drain well, keeping a cup/ 240ml of the cooking water, then add the pasta to the frying pan you cooked the zucchini/courgette in.
  • Add the cooked zucchini/courgette back to the pan with the spaghetti with the grated parmesan, half the basil and a little of the cooking water.
  • Heat over a gentle heat until the parmesan has melted, adding a little more pasta water if it's getting too dry - the sauce should be creamy. Transfer to serving plates and sprinkle over a little more grated parmesan and the rest of the torn basil, to serve.


Zucchini/courgette – small green ones. Smaller zucchini are generally less bitter. You can use larger ones and cut in half if you prefer.
Spaghetti - you could also use linguine, fettuccine, or tagliatelle.
Garlic - a fresh garlic clove (or 2!) is needed in this recipe, it makes all the difference! Remove the garlic as soon as it become mid-golden brown. It will turn dark very quickly and can taste bitter. You can use 2 cloves of garlic for a stronger garlic taste. I keep it milder for younger family members.
Olive oil – use a good quality olive oil for this recipe. 
Fresh basil – adds a fresh perfume to the pasta dish. I recommend you don’t leave this out.
Parmesan cheese – for vegetarians, check your parmesan is vegetarian. You can also use provolone. For a budget friendly alternative, use a strong cheddar – not authentic, but still delicious.
Frying the zucchini/courgettes until blistered and dark brown adds flavour and texture to them.
Cook the pasta to al dente – having a little bite to the spaghetti works with the soft zucchini/courgette.
Remember to save the pasta water – this is full of starch that mixes with the Parmesan to make a creamy sauce.


Calories: 503kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 20gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 342mgPotassium: 722mgFiber: 5gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 556IUVitamin C: 36mgCalcium: 287mgIron: 2mg
Keyword courgette, quick dinner, zucchini


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