Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto

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This may be the last weekend of the official summer season in the Hamptons, but as far as I’m concerned, summer isn’t over until the corn and tomatoes are gone and pumpkin mania takes over. September is a particularly magical month in the Hamptons, because for a few weeks, the weather seems to be absolutely perfect every day, and there are no packed beaches or traffic jams to accompany it. It’s hands-down my favorite month of year here.  So, in honor of the winding down of the insanity that is the Hamptons in August,  and the warm weeks ahead, I wanted to share my all-time favorite late-summer dinner: Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto.

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What is sweet corn pesto, you ask? Let me explain. It’s a sauce that made the same way as traditional basil pesto, but with a few major differences. Instead of basil and pine nuts, I sauté fresh corn with some smashed garlic and blend it all together with Parmesan and olive oil to make a sauce that’s creamy, subtly sweet and savory.

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I love this pasta for so many reasons. It is a unique and heavenly way to use these superstar summer veggies, and a dish that is as impressive as it is simple. The pasta warms the tomatoes just enough to bring out their sweetness, and the panko crumbs toasted with red pepper flakes add just little bit of heat and crunch to each bite. I love having lot of different textures in the same dish, and this recipe has that nailed.

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And for me, this recipe also means slowing down and getting back in the kitchen after months of grilling and throwing together simple sides and salads. With sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and basil, this recipe is as summery as it gets, but it’s also a hearty and comforting dinner -perfect for early September nights with the first discernible chill in the air. Make this over the long weekend if it’s getting cool where you are, and serve the pasta in big bowls with red wine. I promise you’ll be happy you did.

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Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto


Ingredients

 extra virgin olive oil
½ cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3½ cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 6 ears of corn)
2 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife and peeled
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti
2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half through the stem
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Directions

First, make the spicy breadcrumbs. In a large (12-inch) sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the panko, crushed red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring very often, for 3-5 minutes, until the panko is golden brown. Remove to a small bowl to cool.

Wipe out the sauté pan with a paper towel, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, and heat over medium-low heat. Add the corn, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove ½ cup of the corn kernels and set aside. Transfer the rest of the corn and the garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Add 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and process until coarsely pureed. With the food processor running, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and process until smooth. Add the Parmesan and pulse until just combined.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box. While the pasta cooks, wipe out the sauté pan again. Transfer the corn pesto to the pan, add 1/4 cup of pasta water, and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until smooth. (Add another 1/4 cup pasta water if the pesto is still very thick.)

When the pasta is finished cooking, use tongs to transfer it to the sauté pan (do not drain!) and toss it with the sauce. Add the cherry tomatoes and reserved corn kernels and toss again. Serve the pasta in bowls, topped with spicy breadcrumbs and torn basil.

Copyright 2019, Lidey Heuck, All Rights Reserved

40 Comments
  1. Oh my goodness, this was such a hit at our Sunday family dinner! I served it with your Buttermilk Grilled Chicken. Just a wonderful meal!

  2. Just made this for lunch down here in Sydney Australia!
    Delicious . My second attempt at one of your recipes, first being the oatmeal bake with blueberries also delicious ????
    Thank you Lidey

  3. Hi Lidey,
    My family actually doesn’t like tomatoes at all 🙁 Any suggestions for another veggie to add instead? I was thinking asparagus tips but would love any suggestions! Thanks!

  4. Hi Lidey! I know I commented on this fabulous dish once, but was just putting together my menu for our dinner club (Del Mar Dinner Club) that I’ll be hosting in a couple weeks. I was going to make my Tequila Chicken (only make it Tequila Pork Roast) and thought this would be a fabulous dish to serve with it. I bought some really unique pasta yesterday and thought I’d use it with this Corn Pesto in place of the spaghetti (only because I found the other noodles and wanted to incorporate them into my dinner club). It looks like it would pair well with a tequila pork roast, do you agree? Do you think the flavors of this would go well with tequila (and much else, of course) marinated pork? We are hosting September 30 (so still in September). We are in San Diego so the weather will be nice during the day, a bit cool at night. Thank you!!

  5. This was absolutely delicious! It was so easy. We served it with a simple salad and delicious bread. Saving recipe to my favorites!

  6. This looks delicious Lidey and I’m going to make it this weekend for 6 friends who are coming for dinner! I love ALL of you recipes! Can you recommend a chicken recipe to serve with it? Thanks!!!

  7. I made for the holiday weekend and used roasted garlic! So fresh and delicious even my husband, a confirmed carnivore liked it and went back for seconds.

    1. I made this over Labor Day weekend and everyone who was at the party has already asked me to share the recipe! It was wonderful – thank you!

  8. Its amazing however i would lilke to ask you that you may ike to share your recips on my blog:- localfoodstravel.com ..
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  9. Omg so simple, creative and summery!! when living in a tropical country, this is a perfect way to use the tomato that are common here almost all year round. and i never thought of blending sweet corn to make a sauce… 🙂 thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I’m not a huge corn fan (I know, right?) and had some leftover from last weeks box as well as a huge bowl of cherry and grape tomatoes I picked from Amber Waves. Of course I had to add peppers because they’re taking over the refrigerator this week, and this was amazing. I will be making this again and again. The sauce was creamy (but no cream!) and the tomatoes, which I did sauté for a short bit, were sweet and delicious. Thanks for the inspiration!

  11. Oh my gosh, this looks incredible, Lidey! I absolutely adore the small cherry tomatoes (as well as mini heirloom tomatoes). I can eat them like candy. I’m definitely going to make this, it looks fabulous. You are a wonderful cook. 🙂

      1. It does look fantastic! I would have a hard time eating those tomatoes as well. I made Ina’s Chunky Blue Cheese Dip yesterday to take to a dinner party and put it on a platter of crudités and crackers. I added a lot of mini heirloom tomatoes and had to stop myself from eating too many of those yummy tomatoes. The tomatoes are all so good :).

  12. I will be heading out to Southampton in a week or so and I can tell you. I WILL BE MAKING THIS. I could eat that entire serving bowl right now.

    Nothing has looked so good all summer. Thank you, Lidey.

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