Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil

Corn is at the height of it's season, here in Utah, and so I'm always on the lookout for new and tasty ways to prepare it. This summer pasta dish, based on a recipe by Melissa Clark, features corn in a surprisingly tasty way. The corn flavor, which takes center stage, is kicked up by green onions and basil. Off season, I would use frozen corn, because it's what I usually have on hand, but it would be even better with fresh corn, cut from the cob. If you do use frozen corn, thaw and drain it, first. I don't normally keep fresh basil hand, so I used dried. If you have it, though, use 1/3 cup and toss it in at the end, omitting the dried basil and parsley. This sauce cooks quickly, so you will be able to make it at the same time you're cooking the pasta. Just start on the sauce after you set the water to boil, keeping an eye on the pot so you know when it's ready to add the pasta.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes 30 minutes to make.

12 oz. dried pasta such as farfalle, orcchiette, or small shells
1 Tbl neutral oil, such as canola
1 bunch green onions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced, keeping the greens and whites divided
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 Tbl butter
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbl fresh minced flat leaf parsley leaves
1 Tbl lemon juice, or more, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or more to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Salt and pepper, as needed

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 Tbl salt and the pasta. Cook until just 1 minutes shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.

In the meantime, Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, until shimmering. Add the scallion whites and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1 3/4 cups of corn, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup. Simmer until the corn is heated through and almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool, slightly. Puree the mixture in a blender, adding more water as needed to form a thick, but still pourable, sauce.

In the same skillet, add the butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the reserved 1/4 cup of corn, along with the dried basil and red pepper flakes, if using.  Cook until the corn is tender, about 2 minutes. Don't stir it more than once. Letting the corn, and the butter, brown will make it all the more flavorful, just don't let it burn. Add the corn puree and heat through for about 30 seconds, just to combine the flavors.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, returning the pasta to the same pot it was cooked in, if needed, add the sauce to the pasta along with 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Toss to coat and cook over medium heat for 1 minute more. Add more of the reserved water as needed if the mixture seems too thick.

Off the heat, stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Add additional salt and black pepper, to taste. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese, remaining sliced green onion, and a drizzle of olive oil, if using.

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