Every now and then you need a pasta dish that is a little more special than your everyday meal…like this smoked corn tagliatelle.
Smoking is a technique that I just recently started to experiment with. My smoker is attached to the grill, so with all of the summer grilling happening, it only seemed right to crank up the smoker as well. All smokers are different, so I’m not going to provide any information on how to work it, since the methods can vary. If you don’t have a smoker, I would say to definitely look into getting one, or even buying a small, handheld smoking gun.
Anyways, the inspiration for this dish was the corn. Corn is one of the things I look forward to most in the summertime. It’s really not all that good other times of the year, and honestly never quite feels right. Some of the best corn I’ve ever had was at a farm in Napa. You could pull the corn right off its stalk, bite into it completely raw, and it’d be tender and so extremely sweet.
Since I wanted the corn flavor to really shine through, I kept the other flavors minimal. I smoke the corn first over medium-low heat, which takes about 30 minutes. I then use the husks and cobs to create a stock, leaving the kernels behind to sauté for the pasta. This is a perfect example of getting creative with stocks and using up leftover vegetable trim to make something flavorful. I added an onion, fresh thyme, and black peppercorns as well, filled the pot with water, and simmered the liquid for about 45 minutes.
The stock is used to make the pasta sauce. I reduced it, added some pasta water to help the liquid thicken (because of the pasta’s starches), and then finished the sauce by whisking in lots of cheese and butter. The pasta gets tossed in, plus the sautéed corn, and you just want to coat everything until creamy and incorporated. Pretty easy, but it does take some practice to create the perfect consistency and to learn when to adjust the heat when making the sauce.
It’s also crucial to taste the pasta while it’s still in the pan. Add more salt until all of the flavors strongly come through. Once plated, the pasta gets a generous sprinkling of bacon breadcrumbs (which seriously are the best part). Enjoy!
- 4 ears of corn, husks intact
- 1 onion
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 4 qts water
- 5 oz bacon, roughly chopped
- 5 oz sourdough bread, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup safflower oil
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 qt corn stock
- 1 lb tagliatelle pasta
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup pecorino romano cheese
- Prepare the smoker over medium heat (I used hickory wood chips). Smoke the corn for about 30 minutes, with the husks still intact. Remove the corn and peel off the husks. Slice all of the kernels off each ear of corn and transfer to a bowl. Set aside. Add the husks, corn cobs, onion, peppercorns, and thyme to a large pot. Cover with water. Simmer the stock for 45 minutes. Strain, cool, and store the stock in the refrigerator until ready to use. (This dish does not call for all of the stock. Save the rest in the refrigerator to use in other dishes.)
- Add the bacon to a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Render the bacon until it is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Reserve the bacon drippings. In a food processor, pulse the bacon and bread until fine crumbs are formed. Add the oil to the bacon drippings and heat over medium. When the fat is hot, work in batches to fry the bacon breadcrumbs, adding more oil as needed. Drain the bacon breadcrumbs and reserve.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a large sauté pan, add the corn from above and sauté until caramelized. Season with salt and black pepper. In a smaller pot (but large enough to hold the pasta after it boils), add the quart of stock over high heat. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Reduce the stock by half. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook 2 minutes until al dente. Add 1 cup of pasta water to the stock and continue to reduce. Lower the heat and slowly whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. The butter should emulsify and create a thickened sauce. Whisk in the cheese. Add the pasta and toss until fully incorporated. Stir in the corn at the end to heat through. Season with more salt and black pepper to taste. Serve a plate of pasta with the bacon breadcrumbs on top.
- Creating a really good pasta sauce consistency takes practice. If the sauce is too thin, continue to reduce. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more stock. You also want to make sure that you add in the butter over low heat so that the sauce does not break.