Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sweet Corn Pesto Pasta (Italy and the American South collide!)

One of the great joys of growing up in the South and in a Southern family was that no matter where we might have been geographically,  my father made sure that several activities were a part of us where ever we would go. These included Church going, gardening, and an evening meal together. Because of that we also had several food items nearly always present with us. For instance tomatoes were grown in the house gardens, which we always built when we moved in. Those along with squash and zucchini and a few other random veggies. Summer time always meant tomato and onion sandwiches with mayo and black pepper, corn on the cob, and weeding! I can also remember visiting my uncle's garden where corn came right out of the field and onto the table. It was so tasty.  As a family we enjoyed our corn in a lot of ways during the year in our family from fresh to the creamed stuff in a can. But  to this day sweet summer corn was one of those things that really reminds me of family eating  that only came around in the summer time.

The other part of this pasta story ( which has nothing to do with corn)  is that I am wary of making pasta dishes in general. Yes wary!  Partly because I live in New York City, where one can access amazing or at least really good pasta very easily. And partly that one of my best friends in the entire world Angelo Musco is from Italy. And if you know an Italian, you know how picky they are about their pasta. You see several years ago I met Angelo through a dancer friend of mine here in New York. Well we hit it off quite well and he was voted the new best friend of 2002. And here we are 10 years later and he is still a major influence in my life and one of the most driven, intensely talented people I have ever met. That and one of the most willing to share his view of life and world, especially of food! And when I score with a dish, I get raves from him! You can see his work at his web page if you are interested at,  AngeloMusco.com. It is stark and rich, physical and spiritual, dark and vibrant  full of contrast and ultimately very fully human, which is what speaks to me.

Well Angelo has cooked and exposed my palette to a variety of amazing pasta dishes in the last 10 years. There was mushroom pastas, lemon pasta, spicy red sauces and white sauces, oil sauces even bacon sauces. There were noodles thin and noodles fat and wide. Let's just say it's been an education. But regardless of the sauce or pasta type, they were all super yummy! Which brings me to my issue. If I make pasta for this particular friend it either has to be really good or it has to be something he would never cook! So when I did the bow tie pasta with sundried tomato and black pepper cream sauce entry which you can see at http://cookforrestcook.blogspot.com/2012/02/bow-tie-pasta-with-bacon-sundried.html  I knew I had a winner cause Angelo would never cook this. And it got rave reviews!

So after hearing about a corn based sauce for pasta I was really intrigued. I mean something as Southern as corn in a sauce for pasta could potentially be an awesome thing. So I did a little research and found that this idea for a corn pesto was already out there. Not a lot of recipes but enough to make me think, well maybe I should try this. In fact one of the reasons I tried it was that people compared it to carbonara but a lighter summer version. So I did try it and let me tell you the results were nothing short of delicious. The corn cooks into an amazing sauce which you would swear has cream in it but it is really just the sweet fresh corn pureed down into a silken starchy sauce. So without further adieu I give you Sweet Corn Pasta Pesto. Enjoy ya'll.

   Corn Pesto and Bacon Pasta

  what you need:

  • 4 slices thick bacon, cut into lardons
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels from about 6 ears
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound taglietelle, fettucini, or other pasta ( I think bow tie would work well too)
  • 3/4 cup slivered basil leaves
    1.   In a large skillet, cook the bacon pieces over medium-low heat until chewy and beginning to crisp and the fat has rendered into the pan, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
         Add the corn and garlic to the skillet and toss to coat in the fat. Add a couple pinches of salt and pepper and cook until the corn is just tender, about 5 minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of corn, then scrape the rest into a food processor. Add the pine nuts and Parmesan and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil with the machine running and blend until almost smooth. Add some of the cooking water right before the pasta finishes cooking and pulse to smooth it.
         In the meantime, bring a pot of salty water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water before draining.
    2.    In a large skillet, combine the cooked pasta, corn pesto, reserved corn, most of the basil, and 3/4 of the bacon. Over low heat, toss to combine, adding some of the reserved pasta cooking water until the sauce comes together and coats all the noodles. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    3.    Divide the pasta among bowls and top with remaining basil, bacon, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and pepper if desired. Serve immediately. It's really good!

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