So while I was home last week I came across this amazing recipe for Tagliatelle with Corn Pesto from Bon Appetit.
creamy corn pesto with bacon and basil
As pointed out by the folks at Serious Eats, while the dish is called pesto, it bears a fairly strong resemblance to carbonara thanks to its creamy corn sauce and crunchy bacon.
As it just so happens, pesto and spaghetti carbonara clock in at my number one and number two favorite pasta dishes of all time, so for me, this recipe was an immediate showstopper. Combining the best worlds of carbonara and pesto with sinfully sweet summer corn? Broken jaw be damned, there was no way I wasn't going to make this immediately, especially with my parent's fridge full of beautiful food co-op corn and basil that I had dutifully carted home from Harlem on the LIRR.
First, I fried up the bacon. Then I shucked the corn, broke each ear in half and cut off all the kernels. I recently read a piece in Cook's Illustrated claiming that you lose much of the corn's natural sweetness by removing the kernels, and that you should scrape the knife up and down to remove the milk from the cob, so I did that too. Meanwhile, the bacon was nice and crispy, so I took that out, and then cooked the corn and a couple of cloves minced garlic in the greasy pan with salt and pepper. There was so much corn that this took a couple of batches.
The recipe then called for blending this together with toasted pine nuts and parmesan in the food processor. I changed all three of those things: toasted walnuts, romano cheese, blender. The first two substitutions worked fine... the last one didn't. There wasn't enough liquid in the corn to blend up properly, and everything kept getting stuck. Since we used gluten free pasta, which makes the pasta water incredibly nasty slimy starchy, we couldn't thin the sauce with pastas water as suggested, so I just added more olive oil. Eventually I managed to blend everything into a reasonably smooth sauce, but it was kind of a pain in the ass.
We drained the pasta, and tossed it with the corn pesto, reserved corn kernels and bacon. My mom chiffonaded a hefty amount of basil, which we stirred in. For purposes of presentation, it would have looked better if we sprinkled some on top, but we'd been blending an insane amount of corn pesto for like ten minutes, so that wasn't really on our radar at that point. Anyway, season with last and pepper, and you're done.
As for what I thought of the dish, it was pretty damn good, even though I only had a pureed strained version. I will say that the proportion of corn to pasta, (6 ears to a half a pound!), in this recipe is quite insane, but that is ok. I only used 5 ears of corn rather than the suggested 6, and doubled the amount of pasta. Even then, there was so much thick corn puree that I didn't mix in most of the reserved kernels, and I also held aside a fair amount of the sauce to further puree and drink myself. I'd say you really need four large ears of corn at the very most to comfortably sauce a pound of pasta. Also, there could easily be more bacon in this dish, but when is that ever not the case?
Strange ratios aside, this pasta dish is super delicious. If you tossed in some rip red tomatoes, it would be the perfect ode to summer's bounty. It would probably look prettier that way too, as it's really not much of a looker!
For me, it wasn't such a bad dinner, between corn pesto puree and cream of mushroom soup. That doesn't mean I wasn't jealous of the rest of my family getting to eat the unadulterated dish! And don't even get me started on how I bummed I was that I had to skip the main event. Look at how beautiful these pork chops look! What ever happened to solidarity?
pork chops of unfairness