Creamy Summer Corn Pasta with Pecorino + Basil
Creamy Summer Corn Pasta with Pecorino + Basil. There’s nothing like buttery and sweet corn on the cob in the summer, which is the inspiration for this dish. The sauce? Butter, shallots corn, and pecorino - blended up. So simple, so good. Serves 4-6.
- 4 ears corn, husked, kernels cut from cobs - about 4 1/2 - 5 cups kernels, cobs set aside
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons plus 4 tablespoons butter, divided, plus more for finishing (preferably European salted butter)
- 2-3 large shallots, roughly diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 1/4 cup plus 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided, plus more for finishing
- 16 ounces dried pasta, any shape
- 3/4 cup pasta cooking water
- Few generous pinches fresh basil, roughly chopped
- Flaky salt, crushed red chili flakes, freshly cracked black pepper for serving
- Optional: crispy crumbled bacon bits for serving
The Riffs, Subs + Swaps!
- The Corn: Promise me that if you're using fresh corn that you'll only do it when it's in the peak of its season in the summer. Otherwise, just thaw some frozen corn and use 4 1/2 - 5 cups! Frozen corn is harvested in peak season and it'll be super sweet.
- The Butter: This dish is all about taking the flavors of buttery corn on the cob so I really lean into the butter. I love using European salted butter here for an extra seasoned and rich flavor. Unsalted butter works as well. And if butter isn't your jam - use a more buttery leaning extra virgin olive oil, or half butter half olive oil.
- The Shallot: I love shallots here for their somewhat more green and garlic leaning flavor, and you can sub in whatever allium your heart does desire. Yellow onions or leeks would be fab.
- The Pecorino: Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. Think of it like Parmesan's cousin - but sharper, creamier, a little funkier. Parm works perfectly fine here if that's all you have available. I cannot get enough of the Fulvi Pecorino Romano - omg it's SO good even on its own! I get it at Bi-Rite, do some googling and see if you can snag it at a speciality market in your area (Murrays in NY for sure has it).
- The Bacon: Omit it if you don't do pork or you keep a vegetarian diet. Corn and pork are so lovely together, so even better, if you can get your hands on some guanciale, I’d recommend cubing it up a bit and adding it in the first step with the butter, and setting it aside once cooked to toss into the finished pasta when you add the pasta water. I'm dying to try n'duja in this next time.
Prep pasta cooking water
- To large stockpot, add water, reserved corn cobs, and season generously with kosher salt. Set over medium to high heat to bring to a boil while you put together the rest of the dish - this will become the water you cook your pasta in later, and adding the corn cobs to the water early on will make the cooking liquid extra sweet and starchy. If you’re not feelin’ it just skip the corn cobs and bring some generously salted water to a boil.
Saute aromatics + corn
- To large skillet, dutch oven, or stock pot, gently melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add shallots, season with kosher salt, stir, and saute until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, stir, and cook for about 2 minutes until soft.
- Add the corn kernels, season with kosher salt, and gently saute for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until corn becomes brighter yellow color and much sweeter in flavor. We’re not going for caramelization here, so if you start to see some browning turn heat down a bit. After 20 minutes, turn off heat.
Puree corn mixture
- Transfer sauteed corn mixture to blender or food processor, add 1 1/4 cups grated pecorino cheese, and pinch of kosher salt. Blend until completely smooth, making sure any stragglers of shallots or garlic are blended. Transfer back into skillet you cooked corn mixture in, and keep the heat off.
Cook + finish pasta
- Remove corn cobs from boiling pasta water if you added them. Add pasta and cook until just shy of al dente, as you’ll finish cooking it in the sauce. When pasta is cooked - do not immediately strain it, *reserve 3/4 cup of pasta cooking water and transfer it to skillet with corn puree.*
- Once you’ve added the pasta water, strain pasta, or, try my preferred method: use a slotted spoon or kitchen spider to transfer cooked pasta into skillet with corn puree. Turn heat to medium, stir, season with kosher salt, and add remaining ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, stir, and taste. Add few grinds of fresh peppercorns and stir. If it needs an extra punch of flavor, season it a bit more with kosher salt, stir, taste, and adjust. If it needs a sharp note - add more pecorino.
- Spoon into bowls, top with fresh basil, flaky salt, crushed red chili flakes, and more cracked black pep. Top with more grated pecorino, and crispy bacon bits, if using.