Cast Iron

Elote Rigatoni

October  4, 2022
20 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

A big bowl of rigatoni inspired by Mexican street corn. The stuff of summery weeknight dreams. Save any leftovers for tomorrow’s pasta salad. —Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 ears corn, shucked, and kernels cut off (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (remove pith and seeds for less spice)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or Microplaned
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 pound rigatoni (or other short pasta shape)
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons just-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 cup grated or crumbled cotija, plus more for topping
  1. 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!).
  2. Meanwhile, set a large pot of water over high heat. Season with salt, to taste, until very salty.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. While that cooks, add the corn mixture, mayonnaise, lime juice, chives, cilantro, and cotjia to a big bowl. Stir.
  6. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • John Stout
    John Stout
  • Lauren Chitwood Schauf
    Lauren Chitwood Schauf
  • Tessa
  • cholula
  • FrugalCat
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

22 Reviews

John S. February 17, 2019
Can you substitute Greek yogurt for mayo?
Emma L. February 18, 2019
For sure! One of my favorite pasta sauces is almost all Greek yogurt:
Lauren C. February 15, 2019
So tasty and so easy! It was great even with frozen corn, and will be added to our family’s week night rotation. Can’t wait to try it in the summer with fresh corn!
holly.jakobs1 August 24, 2018
Just superb! Made it for a group and they are also in love. Used ghee instead of canola oil- great pot luck dish!
Emma L. August 25, 2018
Such a smart, yummy-sounding substitution! Thanks, Holly!
Rachel P. August 20, 2018
I have made this twice recently to rave reviews! Now am giving the recipe to friends and they, too, are enamored! This is a wonderful meatless meal. Enjoyed it with sliced heirloom tomatoes, balsamic fig dressing and a fresh loaf of Ciabiatta bread.
Emma L. August 20, 2018
Thanks so much, Rachel! Yummm to balsamic fig dressing :)
Tessa July 17, 2018
This was so good it prompted my first ever Food52 comment! My husband brought home a box full o' corn and I was thrown into a panic about what to do with all of it, then I made this and wished I had another box of corn! We ate it all week for lunch, it's great hot or cold. Now I'm going to be sad when corn season is gone.
Emma L. July 18, 2018
Hi Tessa—so happy to hear that! I'm in an eat-as-much-corn-as-humanly-possible phase, too :)
Jusika July 9, 2018
is there an alternative for the mayo?
Emma L. July 9, 2018
I haven't tried an alternative, but I bet butter would be great!
nicole R. June 24, 2018
this is sooooo delicious! Agree, the pasta water is key to making it all come together in one big, bowl of love!
Emma L. June 25, 2018
Yay, thanks!
Courtney June 4, 2018
This is delicious. I found that queso fresco will substitute nicely for cojita if necessary. Also, the pasta water really helps bind the sauce to the pasta, don't skip this step! Can't wait to make it again.
cholula June 4, 2018
omg is this good!
Diane G. May 29, 2018
Please what is a spider?
Emma L. May 29, 2018
It's sort of like a slotted spoon, but more webbed and open. If you don't have one, you could reserve some pasta water, in case it's needed later, then drain the pasta into a colander.
FrugalCat May 29, 2018
Fantastic. I cut back a little on mayo and used Tajin instead of chili powder and salt. Of course I went with shell pasta to trap the corn kernels inside.
Jo S. May 29, 2018
Undoubtedly the BEST recipe from Food52 I’ve made, and I’ve made quite a few over the years. This salad is amazing. I substituted jarred jalapeño for fresh, and I’d do the same in the future. I did not spoon pasta from water, but I did reserve some pasta water before draining and adding the hot rigatoni to the bowl. Just to follow the recipe, i did add a splash of the reserved water. No difficulty finding the cheese. This Mexican yummy will become your signature potluck dish. My son wants it again asap.
Emma L. May 29, 2018
Yay! So happy to hear that.
Hana A. May 24, 2018
I don't know what leftovers you're talking about.
Emma L. May 24, 2018