Add the canola oil to a cast-iron skillet and set over high heat. When it’s hot and shimmery, add the corn. Season with salt, stir, then pat the corn into an even layer. Cook for about 12 minutes, tossing once or twice but mostly leaving alone—this encourages dramatic browning (just what we want!).
Meanwhile, set a large pot of water over high heat. Season with salt, to taste, until very salty.
When the corn is colorful, turn off the heat and add the jalapeño, garlic, and chili powder. Stir, then let be while you tend to the rest of the recipe.
When the water is boiling, add the rigatoni. Depending on the brand and how al dente you like your pasta, it’ll cook for anywhere between 10 and 14 minutes, so taste a noodle here and there.
While that cooks, add the corn mixture, mayonnaise, lime juice, chives, cilantro, and cotjia to a big bowl. Stir.
When the pasta is done, use a spider to transfer the pasta to the bowl with the corn (any water clinging to them is welcome here). Toss. Season with salt and chili powder to taste. Top with more chives, cilantro, and cotija. You could eat this immediately, or save for later as a room-temp or even cold pasta salad.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.