I love corn. Always have. From making chicken corn soup every summer—when corn is at its best—to corn fritters, corn chutney, and spicy corn salads for cookouts.
This summer, I have been breaking fresh ears in half, brushing them with melted butter and cooking them on our gas grill for about 10 to 15 minutes until they are lightly charred. My little grandchildren love these sweet-as-sugar treats.
From the humdrum side dish that seems to have always accompanied meatloaf at the school cafeteria, to the obligatory baked corn custard for Thanksgiving dinner, corn as a vegetable has had a rather humble culinary history. But in recent years, it has certainly moved its way up the food chain.
Corn has made its way into risottos, tacos and burritos, cheese dips, potato casseroles, omelets, and most exciting of all, pastas!
Earlier in the summer, I found a pasta recipe by the noted New York Times food writer, Melissa Clark. I have followed Ms. Clark’s recipes for a while and have found them innovative and different. She focuses on intriguing combinations of ingredients and new ways of preparing them.
“Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil” tastes like summer on a plate. It seems rich, but it is not. The creaminess comes from pureeing fresh sauteed corn with a little water. The scallions and basil impart such a fresh taste. The red pepper gives the dish a wonderful kick. I couldn’t stop eating this pasta, stealing extra spoons full as I was packing up leftovers.
The directions say that preparation of this pasta takes 30 minutes. It took me longer than that, but it was worth it. I also altered the amounts of corn and pasta water used and eliminated the lemon juice at the end. Here is the recipe as I made it. (I got to use my new blender, having put my 1970s Harvest Gold Oster to its final rest.)
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil
- Fine sea salt
- 12 ounces pasta (I used high protein Barilla “bowties”)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for drizzling
- 1 bunch scallions, (about 8) thinly sliced and keeping the white and green parts separate (thin ones are best)
- 3 ears corn, shucked and kernels cut from the cob
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- 1/3 cup torn fresh basil or mint (I used basil)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta one less minute than the package directions for al dente. Drain, reserving a full cup of the pasta cooking water.
- In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add scallion whites with a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add ¼ cup water and all but ¼ cup of the cut corn kernels. Simmer until the corn is almost tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
- Transfer the corn mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a “pourable” liquid.
- Heat the butter in the same skillet and add the reserved ¼ cup corn. Cook until tender, 1 or 2 minutes. Add the corn puree from the blender and heat it briefly.
- Add the pasta and some of the reserved pasta cooking water to the skillet. (I eventually used almost ¾ of a cup to get the right consistency.)
- When the pasta is “loose and creamy,” stir in the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the chopped basil, the red pepper flakes and additional salt and pepper to taste. Ms. Clark suggests sprinkling a little lemon juice at this point. (I eliminated the lemon, but will try next time.)
- Serve in warmed pasta bowls with a drizzle of olive oil on top and a little extra grated cheese.
The only additions I felt I needed to this meal were a platter of sliced tomatoes with a nice vinaigrette, some cold white wine, and a vase of sunflowers on the table.
When learning of this recipe our Burg editor called it “Italy meets central Pennsylvania.” He is right!
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