One of my fondest memories of my childhood summers growing up in northern Vermont was being assigned to husk the corn for our evening meal. This, aside from the steak or fish we would put on the grill, consisted almost entirely of vegetables and herbs from our acre-long garden. I’d sit on the steps of our deck which overlooked miles of farmland and the handsome Green Mountains of Vermont in the distance and peel away the husks one by one. As an already food-obsessed but not old enough to be cooking yet child, husking the corn on those balmy New England summer evenings gave me an immense sense of joy and purpose. The corn was usually then cooked and eaten off of the cob with butter and salt, a truly perfect way to enjoy corn.
This summer, however, decades later and many miles away, I’ve been experimenting with alternative ways to cook with this yellow summer staple. To my delight, it’s been going quite well. This dish is inspired by a recipe from Bon Appétit August 2010. The corn is substituted for basil in this deliciously creamy pesto. I could go on about the delectably perfect combination of crispy bacon with the creamy corn and torn basil leaves…but I’ll let you taste it for yourself.
Fettuccine with Creamy Corn Pesto and Bacon
- 5 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
- 5 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
- 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- ¼ cup Marcona almonds, toasted
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 ounces whole wheat fettuccine
- 1/3 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, 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.