We had something to do close to the dinner hour, so we were looking for an easy, but good-tasting, dish to make as soon as we got back. We looked through a number of recipes, but settled on this one since we had most of the ingredients in house (we did have to pick up a bunch of green onions). Now, this dish sounds fancy, and it does use fresh pasta, so, you might be wondering why we picked it for a quick dinner. Well, we have the answer to that.
First, pretty much everything could, and was, made in advance. The crema, the charred onions, and the pasta. And, we were willing to make the fettuccine, too, because fresh pasta cooks so much faster than the commercial dried; we knew that we could have dinner on the table about 10 minutes after the water started boiling. If you don’t believe us, just read on and scratch up a batch yourself. Oh, this recipe comes from Mastering Pasta, by Marc Vetri and David Joachim, and all we did was reduce the amount of fettucine (by half), add a bit of green onion sprinkle at the end, and use Pecorino Romano cheese instead of Ricotta Salata (which we can’t seem to find here).
This is all about fresh corn. Frozen kernels would not work. And canned, well, leave that stuff in the can — at the store. If you don’t have fettuccine, use something like pappardelle, or even farfalle, that will hold onto the sauce. If you want to try making your own pasta, but don’t have a pasta machine, we’d suggest making pici. It would be perfect for this dish. The cheese garnish could be from any hard, nutty, grating type cheese. Parmesan, Asiago, Comte, etc.
Procedure in detail:
Saute onions. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, stir or shake the pan as needed, and cook until translucent and tender, about 2 minutes, provided you diced them finely enough. If not, cook a bit longer, but not so long that they begin to brown.
Add corn. Before you add the corn, make sure that you have 1/4 cup of kernels reserved for later. We just put the reserved kernels in a measuring cup. Now, add the remaining kernels, stir once or twice, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until the kernels are heated through, about 2 minutes.
Simmer. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Continue, stirring until the kernels are tender and cooked, about 2 minutes more. You’ll notice the kernels becoming a brighter shade of yellow as they cook. When all are a nice bright yellow, they’re done.
Season. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper as needed.
Blend. Transfer the corn mixture to a blender and blend until smooth and thick. The time it’ll take will depend on your blender, and, of course, when blending hot food, provide a safe way for the steam to escape from the blender so the top doesn’t pop off, sending steaming puréed corn everywhere. Once smooth, if you wish, you can transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.
Char onions. Wipe out the skillet and add about 1/2 tablespoon of oil, if needed, and heat over medium-high until the oil is about to start smoking. Add the green onions — yes, whole — and let them char for about a minute on each side. The onions will splatter oil, so be careful. Even being careful, we got splattered. That’s one of the hazards of working in the kitchen. Once charred, take everything off the heat, slice the charred onions into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the reserved corn kernels.
Hold dinner (optional). This is where we stopped so we could go out on our errand. Everything is pretty much done, and we knew the sauce would only take a few minutes to heat through; that would happen while we brought the water for pasta to a boil, so we just put the sauce ingredients in the refrigerator, left the fettuccine drying on a rack, and headed out. When we got back, the bowls (and a loaf of homemade rye) went into the oven at 200°F to warm, and we started right where we’d left off.
Make sauce. Heat remaining oil (about 1/2 tablespoon) in a large skillet over medium-low. Once hot, add the reserved kernels and charred onions, stir, season with salt and pepper, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the corn crema, cook until hot, then lower the heat to keep the sauce warm while you cook the pasta.
Boil pasta. Bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and boil until mostly tender. The pasta should still be slightly chewy in the center. For fresh fettuccine, this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Scoop out about a cup of the pasta water — we dip a measuring cup into the boiling pasta, carefully, of course — and drain.
Add pasta. When the pasta is drained, add it to the crema, along with the reserved pasta water. Stir and toss until the pasta is coated and the sauce starts simmering and thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Serve. Divide into warmed bowls, add shavings of cheese and some green onion slices, perhaps a bit of freshly ground black pepper, and serve.
This really did go fast and easy. It seems like a lot of steps, but it’s great that you can make most of this in advance, then just finish up while the pasta boils. That way, you can easily have dinner on the table in only a few minutes. As with many Italian dishes, this is all about the flavors of the ingredients, and not so much about other seasonings. In fact, the seasonings are simply salt and pepper, so make sure you have some good corn to make this a standout dish. We did, as it’s summer and great-tasting corn is coming in now. We even thought that our corn was slightly too sweet at first bite, but then decided it was just about right. An easy four stars.