It is also easy to make a filling and delicious dish without using meat, which is important when my family visits, because one of them is a vegetarian. Since we all love pasta – meatless or not – it is a good choice.
The one shown in the picture (above) is one I have prepared a couple of times for Christmas Eve dinner as a second main dish, and we all love it. It is particularly good when sweet corn is in season, but it is almost as good when made with good frozen corn. There’s no cream in this wonderfully summery pasta dish, just a luscious sauce made from puréed fresh corn and sweet sautéed scallions, along with Parmesan and red chile flakes. Be sure to add the lemon juice and fresh herbs at the end; the rich pasta is even better with those bright, fresh flavors.
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil
Fine sea salt
12 ounces dry orecchiette or farfalle
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for serving
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste
⅓ cup torn basil or mint, more for garnish
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Fresh lemon juice, as needed
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup corn; simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender (or use a stick blender), and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
- Heat the same skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns; that deepens the flavor.) Add the corn purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, the red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and garnish with more scallions, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.
Another pasta dish I love is Linguine with Shrimp Scampi. This can be made as a starter or as a main course. Scale ingredients up or down depending on how many you are feeding, and whether it is a meal or a starter. I have made it just for myself, and eaten the leftovers for a couple of meals! This is the recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, but I make a couple of changes, and have reduced quantities here. Two pounds is a lot of shrimp!
Use good USA-raised fresh shrimp, or frozen (uncooked) shrimp if you can’t get fresh. I recommend buying shrimp in the shell, and shell and devein them yourself. You can buy frozen shrimp that have been deveined for you with the shells still intact. I also sometimes make this same dish, but substitute clams for the shrimp. Canned clams really aren’t bad, at least in this dish.
- Vegetable oil
- Kosher salt
- 12 ounces linguine or other long pasta (original was 1-1/2 pounds)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (original was 6)
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil (original was 5)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic – (original was 3)
- 4 or 5 scallions, sliced thinly (my addition)
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (original was 2)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (original was 1/2)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (original was 3/4)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (my addition)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (original was 1/2)
- 1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds (original was 1/2)
- 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- Grated parmesan cheese (my addition – Italians never use cheese with seafood!)
Prepare a large pot of boiling water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic (and scallions, if using). Sauté for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
If using wine, remove shrimp from the saute pan, and add the wine, cooking to reduce the volume by half. Return the shrimp to the pan, and stir just to heat the shrimp, then remove the pan from the burner. Add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine. Drain pasta, add it to the saute pan, and toss well. Serve along with grated cheese for diners to use, if they so desire.
Other pasta dishes that I also like (and have blogged about before) are:
Pasta – fresh or dried – is good with so many things that we could talk about it for hours. I personally love potato gnocchi with pesto, or with pesto, green beans and new potatoes.
What are your favorites?