Oh, corn… if you’re not from the midwest, you don’t really know corn… in the same way that if you’ve never been to southern Italy, you’ve never truly experienced a tomato.
Jack doesn’t “get” corn. But he’s from Florida, so he never grew up with late-July anticipation of the sweet, crunchy, juicy goodness that is Illinois bi-color corn. (And truthfully, I think the closest he got to “corn” as a child was via Frito-Lay).
If I had peak-season Illinois corn, I wouldn’t even be cooking it this much. This is a summery dish you make when you live somewhere that doesn’t have Illinois corn (or you could even use frozen corn). We have this pretty good corn in Texas right now. I usually eat it doused with chipotle chile powder (another good application for “pretty good” corn). But this time I was craving something a little bit more subtle.
This creamy sauce, made from corn and almonds, is luscious and a just tad bit rich… but on the (way) lighter side than traditional creamy fettuccine. I tossed in some spicy arugula for contrast…In case no one’s noticed, I’m kind of an arugula addict.
- 1½ cup almonds, blanched, skins removed*
- 1½ cups corn kernels, blanched (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons agave or honey (to taste)
- Sea salt
- 8 ounces fettuccine (or pasta of your choice – feel free to sub in whole grain or gluten free)
- ¾ cup corn kernels (in addition to the corn that is in the sauce recipe above)
- 2 cups uncooked arugula or spinach
- ½ cup (or more) of reserved pasta water
- ½ – ¾ cup sweet corn cream sauce, from above (as much or little as you like)
- ¼ cup basil, chopped or torn
- Juice of ½ lemon, to taste
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Make the sweet corn cream: In a high speed blender (we used a Vitamix), puree the almonds, corn, water, olive oil, garlic, onion, lemon, 1 tablespoon agave, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust. If you want it more sweet, add more agave. If you want it more tart, add more lemon, or if more rich, add more olive oil. And, of course, add salt to taste.**
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and rinse, reserving at least ½ cup pasta water.
- In a large bowl*** place the loose corn kernels and arugula. Scoop cooked pasta noodles on top along with some of the reserved starchy pasta water. Spoon in the almond cream, a little at a time, along with more pasta water, tossing as you go to wilt the arugula and thin out the cream sauce. Continue, adding more sauce, salt, pepper, the basil, another few squeezes of lemon, and the red pepper flakes, if using. Taste as you go. Use as much or little of the cream sauce as you like. This can be a very light dish, or a more rich one depending on what you’re in the mood for.
**The corn flavor will intensify if you let the sauce sit for a bit. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. This can be made up to 2 days in advance.
***If you made the sauce ahead of time and it is cold from the refrigerator, you might want to mix everything together in a large skillet with a little bit of olive oil over low heat instead of a bowl so that your final dish is hot and not lukewarm.