Chef Alex Saggiomo always cooks for a crowd, even when it’s just two people at the table. Here’s his recipe for a celebratory summer corn pasta that’s light and indulgent at the same time.
There are few things that make me as happy as cooking for someone, and when that someone is my fiancé, AND it’s his birthday…well, it’s time to pull out all the stops. Normally, when planning a grand feast to prepare for someone I love, I start dreaming of rich braises and lavish desserts, but a few years ago a simple request stopped me in my tracks; “do you think you can make something healthy?”
Healthy? For your birthday?! I guess we love our partners in spite of their flaws. The gauntlet had been thrown, and I was ready to accept.
Instead of turning to classic “health foods,” I looked to dishes that I knew he loved, and tried to find ways to lighten them up. He’s an unyielding pasta fan, I knew that would be a good place to start. A stroll around the farmers market led me to a bounty of fresh corn, and inspiration hit: borrow the structure of pasta carbonara, but add richness with corn to keep it light. I gathered the rest of my goods and ran back to the kitchen, ready to get to work.
The pasta turned out exactly as I’d hoped: rich and pork-spiked like a carbonara, but bright and herbaceous like a new dish in its own right. A shower of fresh herbs and lemon zest helped it pop, and judging by the look on my fiancé’s face, it was a hit. Since then, this dish has become a birthday tradition, but as easy as it is, you’ll find yourself whipping it up in no time for a weeknight dinner.
Summer Corn and Bacon Pasta Recipe
- 1 Lb spaghetti
- 6-7 Ears of corn, shucked
- 2 Tbsps butter, unsalted
- 4 Oz pancetta or bacon, small diced
- 2 Shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 Lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 Tbsps tarragon, minced, plus more for garnish
- 3 Tbsps basil, plus more for garnish
- Place a kitchen towel on a cutting board; stand the corn on its flat side, and cut the corn kernels off the cob (the towel will keep all the kernels from flying about, and make them easier to transport). Transfer the corn kernels to a blender; puree until smooth.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water, and drain the pasta.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and the fat has rendered (6 to 7 minutes). Add the shallots and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and softened. Add the cooked spaghetti, corn puree, half of the pasta cooking water, and the lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is coated and the sauce has thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of the tarragon, and 2 tablespoons of the basil (tear just before adding). Divide the pasta between 4 bowls and garnish with the remaining herbs.