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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 [1].

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 [2])

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.