The Arts District restaurant shares its mind-blowing dish recipe

At the new La Stella Cucina Verace in Dallas’ Arts District, there’s a jaw-dropping pasta dish that offers zucchini three ways: sautéed, mashed, and crisp-fried.

This is chef Luigi Iannuario’s interpretation of a specialty of the Amalfi Coast, spaghetti alla Nerano. TV show fans In search of Italy may recall host Stanley Tucci proclaiming the dish “life-changing” and one of the best things he’s ever eaten in the first episode. Tucci would surely love the elevated version of Iannuario, listed on La Stella’s menu as “Cavalieri alla Nerano.” Cavalieri is the nickname of one of Iannuario’s partner restaurants, as well as a brand of spaghetti that the Italian chef is fond of.

To make the dish, Iannuario purees sautéed zucchini with basil, olive oil, pistachios and grated mandarone provolone – a tangy aged cheese. Then he throws the mash into a skillet with more sautéed zucchini, boiled pasta, pasta cooking water, and extra cheese. Although made with just a few ingredients, the dish has remarkable depth; the sweetness of zucchini, pistachios and basil harmonizes with the sharp and complex cheese. Crispy, earthy zucchini chip crumbs top each serving.

“There are different layers of texture in the dish. It’s total zucchini – it’s zucchini sophistication,” Iannuario says, coining a new term.

Italian restaurant La Stella has opened in Dallas, where the Flora Street Cafe was located

Iannuario admits that his recipe differs slightly from the original, born in the town of Nerano; but he says the essential flavors and ingredients are authentic.

“They don’t puree zucchini [in Italy], they break it; for fine dining, I wanted a more refined presentation, so I mash it. I also added pistachios to make it denser,” he says.

The result is a sublime, silky sauce that clings to fluffy pasta and sautéed zucchini and contrasts with the crispy filling.

The quality of the ingredients is essential to the success of this dish. Iannuario warns against using large courgettes; he says small (5-7 ounces) are best. “I find them bitter when overgrown,” he says. The complex flavor of Provolone Mandarone also plays a key role. Aged for over a year, this salty, sharp cheese has a more intense flavor than its young provolone relative. Finally, the right doughs are important for the right texture. While regular spaghetti is too thin, spaghetti cuadrati and spaghetti alla chitarra have the heft and chewiness to stand up to the cheesy zucchini sauce.

Iannuario says he prepares the garnish and sauce for the dish while preparing the pasta. You will need to prepare and organize all the ingredients in advance and complete several tasks to achieve this feat. We made the fried zucchini filling before heating the pasta water, to give us a bit of a break.

Want to taste the dish before making it? La Stella is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. Late hours, like Spaghetti alla Nerano, are rare in Dallas.

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Chef Luigi Iannuario of La Stella Cucina Verace calls his Cavalieri alla Nerano “total zucchinification,” coining a new term.(Rebecca Slezak / Staff Photographer)

Cavalieri alla Nerano (pasta with zucchini sauce Nerano style)

10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided use)

2 organic garlic cloves, halved and crushed with the back of a chef’s knife (remove the center green sprout first, if present)

1 1/2 pounds small to medium zucchini (each weighing 5 to 7 ounces), seeds removed, cut into 1/4 inch dice

8-10 large basil leaves (about 1/3 cup, wrapped), plus 4 teaspoons finely cut ribbons/chiffonade (divided use)

2 ounces (1/2 cup) shelled pistachios

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 ounces provolone mandarone or provolone stagionato (sold at Eataly), grated with a grater-style grater (divided use)

1 pound (or 500g) spaghetti cuadrati or spaghetti alla chitarra (sold at Central Market and Eataly)

Fried zucchini chips, for garnish (recipe follows)

In a large sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat. Add the garlic and zucchini and sauté until the zucchini cubes are golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add the basil and another 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a blender and puree until smooth. Add the pistachios and stir to incorporate. Add ⅔ of the zucchini, salt and pepper; mix until smooth, then add half of the grated cheese and continue mixing. (The mixture will be thick, but you will end up mixing it with some starchy pasta cooking water.)

Meanwhile, bring a 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of sea salt (taste it, and if necessary add more; it should taste like the sea). Add pasta and cook 1-2 minutes less than package recommended cooking time, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Halfway through cooking, the pasta water will be starchy enough to add two or more tablespoons to the zucchini mixture in the blender to make a creamy puree; blend the mixture, and if the puree is still too thick, add more of the pasta cooking water, one tablespoon at a time.

Return the skillet to high heat. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, the reserved sautéed zucchini, the zucchini puree mixture, the basil chiffonade and a 4-ounce ladle of the pasta cooking water, stirring to combine. When the pasta is 1-2 minutes shy of being al dente, drain it and immediately add it to the sauté pan, tossing it with tongs to combine with the sauce and continue cooking for about a minute. Remove from the heat and add ⅔ of the remaining shredded cheese, stirring to combine. Serve immediately, garnishing each serving with crumbled fried zucchini and remaining grated cheese.

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Fried zucchini chips

1/2 cup semolina or fine semolina flour for pasta (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand, sold in bulk at Central Market)

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 liter of olive oil

1 8-ounce zucchini, sliced ​​as thinly as possible (use a mandolin for even, paper-thin slices)

Whisk together cornstarch and semolina flour or semolina in a medium bowl. Put aside.

Heat oil in Dutch oven to 300 F. While oil heats, in medium bowl, toss zucchini in wine for 1 second; drain the courgettes and discard the wine. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, toss the slices in the flour and cornstarch mixture to evenly coat them; remove with a cobweb strainer, shake off excess flour and fry in hot oil until golden brown (do not brown), about 1-2 minutes if paper-thin, longer if they are thicker; residual heat will brown fries as they cool.

Transfer the fried zucchini chips to a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towel. Repeat the process with the remaining zucchini slices. Don’t try to fry too many at once or the slices will stick together and the oil temperature may drop too low.

Makes 4-6 servings.

SOURCE: Luigi Iannuario, chef-partner of La Stella Cucina Verace