Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto

Growing up in the Midwest, you are surrounded by fields of corn. Unfortunately, most of this corn isn’t for human consumption, but the stuff that is tastes fantastic. We used to buy corn from a local farmer by the dozen. Two dollars for a dozen ears of sweet summer corn—corn that had been picked just hours before you bought it. It didn’t even require cooking. Corn remains one of my favorite summer foods and now that it is making its way into the markets, I was pretty excited to find a series of recipes featuring fresh corn in the latest issue of Bon Appétit.

In this pasta with corn pesto, fettuccine noodles are coated in a creamy sauce made with fresh corn and then tossed with some basil, bacon, and Parmesan. This is summer comfort food at its best. You’ll be as shocked as Bryan was that there isn’t any cream in this dish, just milky, sweet summer corn.

It is worth noting that Bryan doesn’t like corn, but loved this dish. He will ask me clarify that he doesn’t like corn off of the cob, probably the result of too much of the canned stuff as a kid. It is unfortunate that so many vegetables were ruined for us by having experienced them first as canned vegetables (I still have a hard time eating green peas).  Bottom line- if Bryan could love this recipe, it is something special. I think you’ll love it too.

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto (adapted from the August 2010 issue of Bon Appétit)

  • 4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, red pepper flakes, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

59 comments to “Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto”

  1. Hi Tim! I made this shortly after you posted it 2 years ago, and I’m hoping to make it again, but as something served as a side at a giant bbq (ie. room temp). Do you think this would congeal into a giant mass of pasta and corn, or would it keep its creamy texture? Opinions appreciated!

  2. Hey Nuala- Unfortunately, I think it would congeal into a giant mass. Which is a real bummer, because your idea sounds great. Maybe you could do a version without the cream sauce? Maybe just toss pasta with olive oil, bacon, corn kernels? And maybe use penne or something similar so it is easier to eat? Let me know what you come up with!

  3. Hi again! I ended up following the recipe with a few changes– used orecchiette instead of tagliatelle, and when I made the pesto I thinned it with a little half & half and never added any of the pasta water (I figured it would be the starch that would make the whole thing a sticky mess). It worked wonderfully and everyone loved it– will definitely be making it again as a pasta salad while corn is still so sweet and delicious.

  4. I am new to this blog. But, growing up in the Midwest,then having a garden as a young adult to pick corn and throw it into a pot, then moving to Maryland for 8 years to survive on Silver Queen in the summer, and then back to Indiana where the vegetable stand is the grocery–corn is a daily summer staple/favorite in the summer. I can not wait to try this. And with bacon? One word. YUM.

  5. I just discovered your blog earlier this week and came across this recipe. I was so excited to find it because it was a different pasta dish and I never would have though to make a pesto out of corn! Anyway, I made this last night for my husband and I and we both LOVED it! Great flavor and I loved the little kick it had from the crushed red pepper. I kept saying it was a restaurant quality dish! The only change I made was to use whole wheat fettucine. I will definitely be checking out more recipes on your site, thanks for sharing!

  6. So good! Just made it and we both loved it ……..Thanks so much ……. only change I made was to use Angel Hair Pasta. YUMMY!!

  7. I just wanted to let you know that this is by far the best recipe i’ve tried in a long time! I came across your page on Pinterest, thought it sounded interesting since my market just got in a ton of fresh corn from a local farm, I decided I’d make use of the produce. I made homemade fettucini and basically followed the recipe exactly except that I added more bacon. I paired it with a simple salad, fresh bread and Chardonnay of course;) I think I knocked my dates socks off….in fact that is an exact quote from him. Good thing I like him because I think he fell in love;) anyway thank you so much for posting and I definitely recommend this recipe to everyone!! If your feeling like bringing it up a notch make your own pasta! It’s totally worth the effort!

  8. this is my favorite way to use fresh corn! I’ve been waiting all year until corn is in season to make this with my homemade pasta. I made it last year and had people think I was a genius and I have been sharing your recipe ever since! Thank you so much….I’m so excited to see that corn is on sale at the grocery store. I am making this again ASAP!

  9. Hi Mary- So glad you like the recipe! Thanks for letting me know.