Fettuccine with Corn Pesto
Fresh fettuccine paired with sweet summer corn pesto for a delicious, unexpected twist. Move over, basil – there’s a new pesto in town. Fettuccine with Corn Pesto is the perfect dinner to highlight summer produce!
Is there anything better than sweet summer CSA corn? Okay, fine, there are lots of things that are better than corn in the grand scheme of things, but CSA corn? Really, really good.
Grocery store corn is usually mediocre at best. Farmer’s market corn is always pretty good. But CSA corn is somehow perfectly sweet and crunchy and delicious every time.
But (there’s always a but, right). There’s usually so much. So much corn. Like, way more corn that we could eat as corn on the cob. I like variety for dinner – grilled corn is the epitome of summer, but I don’t want grilled corn every night.
That’s where this corn pesto comes in. It’s delicious CSA (or farmer’s market, or grocery store, if that’s the best available) corn, but it’s a fun new way to serve it.
It’s so easy, super quick, and totally worthy of company. Or a Tuesday night in with your family.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Bacon: Bacon adds a delicious smokey flavor, but feel free to omit if you do not consume bacon.
- Fresh Corn: Fresh corn is, by far, the best here. But if you want to make this out of fresh corn season, substitute in frozen or canned corn!
- Garlic: Garlic can be minced by hand or pressed through a garlic press.
- Parmesan: Freshly grated Parmesan provides superior flavor.
- Pine Nuts: Toasted pine nuts bring classic pesto flavor, but you can substitute in other nuts or seeds, like walnuts, pistachios, almonds, or sunflower seeds.
- Olive Oil: Use good-quality olive oil for your pesto.
- Fresh Herbs: Basil, sage, and chives are my favorite fresh herbs to use in this corn pesto, but you can substitute in your favorites!
- Fresh Fettuccini: I always like to use fresh pasta with this pesto, but dried pasta works well, too.
Pesto Made from Corn
Instead of basil, we’re going to make pesto from corn – and it is delicious! I like basil pesto, but I love corn pesto. It’s thicker and has a much more luxurious feeling – and it does such a great job of coating each piece of pasta!
The idea is very similar to typical basil pesto. We’re combining corn with olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and toasted pine nuts. But the texture? It’s totally different. What makes the corn pesto extra special? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!
When the corn kernels are blended with the nuts, cheese, and olive oil, the starch granules within the corn absorb liquid and swell, bursting and releasing starches into the pesto. This process creates a thicker, more viscous texture, and binds the pesto ingredients together, acting as an emulsifier. As a result, corn pesto is creamier, thicker, and holds oil better than basil pesto.
If you’ve ever bought a jar of pesto sauce and let it sit, you’ve probably noticed how the oil separates out into a layer on top. Because of the emulsifying powers of starch, we won’t see this kind of oil separate in our corn pesto!
One of my biggest mental blocks when it comes to meal planning is figuring out what to serve as sides. So here are some ideas of ways to turn your fettuccini with corn pesto into a complete meal, whether it’s for yourself as a quick weeknight dinner or for a larger group at a summer-inspired dinner party!
- Grilled Proteins: This is perfect either topped with or served alongside grilled protein, like chicken, shrimp, or steak.
- Roasted or Grilled Vegetables: Share the spotlight with other fresh summer produces, like roasted or grilled cherry tomatoes, zucchini, or bell peppers.
- Summer Salad: Pair your fettuccini with a freshly made salad, whether it’s a simple garden salad or even a shaved fennel salad with citrus vinaigrette.
- Family-Style Pasta Bar: Set up a DIY pasta bar with a variety of toppings and garnishes, like grated cheese, chopped fresh herbs, toasted nuts, grilled vegetables, and proteins.
Recommended Tools to Make Corn Pesto
- Pasta Pot: I love this one with the built-in colander for easy draining.
- Saute Pan: This one is big enough to saute all the bacon and corn.
- Food Processor: A food processor is the perfect way to blend together the pesto into a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Herb Scissors: If you cook with lots of fresh herbs, herb scissors are the easiest way to quickly chop your herbs into small, uniform pieces.
Tips and Tricks for The Best Fettuccini with Corn Pesto
- Use ripe, fresh corn for the best flavor. Look for ears with plump kernels and vibrant green husks. When you press on a kernel, it should release a little milky liquid.
- Add the olive oil gradually while blending. This helps ensure a smooth, homogenous mixture in the end.
- Cook the fettuccine to al dente – slightly firm. The fettuccine will continue cooking when it is tossed with the pesto, and we don’t want it to overcook.
- Save some pasta water to toss with the pesto. The starchy water helps to bring the pesto together and ensure each strand of pasta is well coated.
- Fettuccine with corn pesto is best served immediately but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated before serving.
More Pasta Dinners:
- One Pot Tortellini with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
- Tomato Basil Tortellini Salad
- Classic Italian Pasta Salad
- Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
- 8 ounces fresh fettuccine
- 6 slices bacon
- 6 large ears corn, kernels removed from cob
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (suggested: basil, sage, and chives)
- Begin by boiling a large pot of salted water to cook the pasta. Once boiling, cook fresh fettuccine according to package directions until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, saving 1 1/2 cups cooking water. Return pasta to the pot.
- While pasta is boiling, cook bacon in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside. Add corn, garlic, salt, and pepper to the remaining bacon drippings in the skillet. Saute over medium-high heat until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the corn mixture in a small bowl.
- Transfer the remaining corn mixture to a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, pine nuts, and olive oil. Process the mixture until the pesto is mostly smooth.
- Once the pasta is done cooking and back in the pot, add the corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup of the chopped herbs. Toss the pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through. Add the reserved pasta cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the pesto is thin enough to coat the fettuccine.
- Transfer pasta to a shallow bowl and top with crumbled bacon, remaining Parmesan cheese, and remaining herbs.
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