What is your favorite food?
This used to be an exceedingly hard question for me. I like pretty much everything, and there are too many choices, so I used to respond, “It depends”, but recently I have come to realize that the answer to that question is pasta. Any way you prepare it (barring the horror that is pasta salad), it is always satisfying and delicious. I love how perfectly cooked pasta is tender but still present beneath the teeth, how I can just taste the sweetness of the wheat in the undressed noodle, and how warm I feel after eating a bowl of it. It is so simple, just flour and water, yet so complex. It is the embodiment of the Italian approach to food, turning the most basic of ingredients into something sublime.
I also go crazy for any new and creative way to prepare it. I ripped this recipe out of a magazine because it looked so interesting I just had to make it.
It comes from Marc Vetri’s book Mastering Pasta, a beautiful book that I am tempted to buy because, as you can tell, I am pretty obsessed with anything pasta. In his book, Vetri explores the union of pasta and sauce, coming to the conclusion that the two are not separate entities and to think of them as such impedes the creation of a truly revelatory pasta dish. Of course, Italians have long known this, and the reason there are so many shapes of pasta out there is because each form is made for a certain type of sauce. Ridges and holes, such as those found on penne rigate and rigatoni, allow a pasta to hold on to as much sauce as possible by increasing the surface area. Short pasta is perfect for chunky sauces, while long pasta is perfect for unctuous sauces, like this one.
Here I used fusilli della regina, a special type of pasta I had never had before, even though the original recipe called for fettuccine. I found them at Claudio’s and couldn’t resist.
This recipe is interesting because it manages to make a creamy sauce without using any butter or cream. The corn kernels are cooked with onion and a little water and then blended to make a sweet, creamy, yellow sauce. The charred green onions add a pop of color and a smoky flavor that make eating dish reminiscent of biting into a grilled corn cob.
Adapted from Mastering Pasta, by Marc Vetri:
Charred Green Onion Pasta with Corn Crema
finely chopped yellow onion (like 1/4 of the onion)
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1/4 cup water
1 bunch green onions
fusilli della regina, fettuccine or other long pasta
salt, black pepper
Heat some olive oil in a pan and sweat the yellow onion until it becomes translucent. Add all but 1/4 cup of the corn kernels and the water and simmer gently until the corn is just starting to get tender (about 3-4 minutes). Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste, some grated parmesan, and then transfer it to a food processor and process until smooth.
Heat a cast-iron skillet until smoking hot, then add your green onions and char until they are nicely colored on both sides. Remove from the heat and chop finely.
Now, heat a little more oil in the pan you used to cook the corn before and add the reserved 1/4 cup kernels and the chopped green onion, and cook for about 1 minute. Add in the corn crema and reduce the heat to low. Add more salt if needed. In the meantime, cook your pasta until al dente, then transfer it to the pan with a bit of pasta water to thin the sauce. Stir until each strand is coated and enjoy!