Garrison Keillor (he of Prairie Home Companion notoriety) famously said, “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn”. Corn is one of those hallmarks of summer for me. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Kansas, and my grandma always had a giant garden—well, somewhere between garden and legit field—just for corn.
All the aunts and cousins would get together for a few days and pick corn, shuck it, blanch it, and cut it off the cob for preserving. But we’d always save the best ears for eating right away, rolled in butter and lightly salted. That sweet, juicy pop of kernels is synonymous with summer for me.
With my surgery happening in the middle of the summer (and all the preparation that came before it), I feel like I’ve kind of missed out on summer, particularly the glut of zucchini, tomatoes, and corn that usually accompany the hot months.
Right before I left for Colorado a couple weeks ago, I realized that the entire summer has passed by and I hadn’t made a single dish with fresh sweet corn. Which is totally unacceptable. So this creamy corn & leek fettuccine is like the last hurrah of summer!
This is actually an adaptation of two different pasta recipes I’d pinned, this one from A Cozy Kitchen, and this one from Pinch of Yum. Each featured charred sweet corn as the primary ingredient, but one focused more on fresh fennel, tarragon, and clams (which I don’t eat), while the other recipe had chipotle and cilantro (which are definitely not my style) but a sauce process I liked.
This recipe has some elements of each, but I made several changes as well…hence creamy charred corn & leek fettucine. A perfect comforting dish that will help us slide into fall.
To put my own spin on it, I added leeks as the flavor base for the sauce. I actually wanted to use shallots opposite the corn, but the store was out so I let the leek pinch-hit. They have a great, subtle flavor when sautéed and then partially pureed.
I didn’t have fresh tarragon, but used dried instead. I added the charred corn to the sauce (and would recommend lightly pureeing) as well as just tossing the whole, charred corn kernels with the pasta.
You might also like: Pasta with Fresh Sweet Corn Pesto
First, bring a large pot of water to boil. Shuck the corn and remove the hard ends, then place the ears in the boiling water. You only need to let them cook for a few minutes, then take them out of the water and set them aside to cool. Don’t dump the water—you’ll need it for the pasta!
Mince up the leeks and garlic so they’re ready when you need them.
Once the corn has cooled enough that you can handle it, slice the corn off the ears.
Place the kernels in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with no oil or butter. Let the corn sit without stirring until the bottom gets dark and roast-y.
Stir (or kind of lightly flip them over) and repeat, until you have a nice, charred pan of corn. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, so definitely start this part as soon as you can. When it’s sufficiently charred, take off the heat.
Bring the pot of corn water back to a boil and cook the pasta according to package direction. Before you drain it, reserve about 3/4 cup of the corn/pasta water before draining.
Now while the pasta’s cooking and corn’s charring, you’ll make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced leeks and saute for about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Then add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
You might also like: Creamy Sweet Corn & Chicken Sausage Pasta
Add the flour and stir for a minute. Whisk in the milk, half and half, salt, and reserved corn/pasta water until the sauce is smooth.
Continue to stir as it thickens, adding the tarragon and greek yogurt as well.
Look at that beautiful charred corn! I would have gotten it even more roasted if I’d had time.
Throw about 2/3 of the charred corn into the sauce. If I had it to do over again, I would have (carefully—it’s hot!) taken an immersion blender to it to break up the corn and leeks a little. But if you don’t it will still be great.
Toss the pasta, sauce, and the rest of the charred corn together in a large bowl. Serve right away.
This was just bursting with summery goodness! The sauce was hearty but still light, and every bite of corn was like a sweet surprise.
I may have totally gorged on this…it would still be good using frozen corn, but nothing beats fresh sweet corn during peak season.
Other delightful vegetarian pastas you’ll love:
- Giovanna’s Pasta con Pesto
- Cavatappi with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes, Kale, & Grilled Zucchini
- Butternut Squash, Leek, & Parmesan Pasta
- Pasta with Tomato, Spinach, & Feta
Creamy Charred Corn & Leek Fettuccine
- 4-6 ears of fresh sweet corn
- 1 pound of fettuccine noodles
- 3 tablespoons of salted butter
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 leek (white & pale green parts)
- 1 teaspoon of garlic (2-3 cloves)
- 1/4 cup of flour
- 1 cup of milk (I used skim)
- 1/2 cup of half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of tarragon
- 3/4 cup of the corn/pasta water
- 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt – I used Chobani plain 0%
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Shuck the corn and remove the hard ends, then place the ears in the boiling water. Let them cook for a few minutes, then take them out of the water and set them aside to cool.
- Once the corn has cooled enough to handle, slice the corn off the ears. Place the kernels in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with no oil or butter. Let the corn sit without stirring, until the bottom gets dark and roasty. Stir and repeat, until you have a nice pan of charred corn. Note, it took much longer for the corn to char then the recipes I consulted said, so get this started sooner rather than later. When finished, remove from the heat.
- Bring the pot of water back to a boil and cook the pasta according to package direction. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the pasta water before draining.
- While the pasta’s cooking and corn’s charring, you’ll make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and saute until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Add the flour and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, half and half, salt, and corn/pasta water until the sauce is smooth. Continue to stir as it thickens, adding the tarragon and greek yogurt as well.
- When the corn is charred, throw about 2/3 of it into the sauce. If I had it to do over again, I would have (carefully!) taken an immersion blender to it to break up the corn a little, but if you don’t it’s good too.
- Toss the sauce, pasta, and remaining charred corn together in one large pot or bowl.
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