Corn

Summer Corn & Basil Casoncelli

July 22, 2021
1 Rating
Photo by Pasta Social Club
Author Notes

It’s difficult for me to imagine the summer months without enjoying some combination of corn and pasta. Corn ravioli in all shapes and sizes are often on my July and August eating agenda—which is why I was especially fascinated by a little debate that started among the online pasta-making community last year.

My American neighbors and I were excited to share our corn pasta creations on Instagram (I mean, what screams all-American summer more than corn on the cob?), much to the dismay of our Italian friends. “When in the history of Italian pasta-making did it become OK to add sweet corn to a pasta filling or condiment?” they asked. The hatred of sweet corn was surprisingly strong. I’ll admit I took it a little personally at first. But my husband, a U.K. native, just laughed and filled me in: “That’s because corn in Europe usually comes in a can.” A freshly picked ear of corn, charred on the grill, and slathered in butter? Not really a thing over there. Mystery solved.

So with another corn season upon us here in the U.S., I’m back with a new recipe that celebrates this sweet and starchy vegetable in all its glory. The shape is inspired by casoncelli, rolled ravioli from Lombardy that come in many forms, from half-moons to little boats to the winged envelope-ish ones pictured here. Some are stuffed with pork and spinach, others with veal; in Bergamo, casoncelli are slightly sweet with the addition of raisins and amaretti cookies, and dressed in butter, pancetta, and sage.

I’ve paired the pasta with a sauce made from a rich corn stock that puts the cobs to good use, but if you’re short on time, any butter and herb combination will work nicely (or serve the pasta directly in the seasoned stock). And although you won’t find corn-filled pasta in Italian cookbooks—the few traditional dishes that feature sweet corn include pasta fredda and insalata di riso, both served cold—Italian cooking is also deeply rooted in regionality, seasonality, and making something delicious with what you have. So if you find yourself on a lazy Sunday looking for a new way to enjoy the season’s bounty, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try. —Meryl Feinstein, Pasta Social Club

  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • For the pasta & filling
  • 300 grams (2½ cups) ‘00’ soft wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams (¼ cup) semolina or semola rimacinata flour (if unavailable, substitute with the same weight of ‘00’ or all-purpose flour)
  • 200 grams lightly beaten eggs (approximately 4 large eggs)
  • 4 large ears sweet summer corn
  • 55 grams (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 120 grams (½ cup) whole-milk ricotta
  • 40 grams (⅓ cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 25 grams (1 packed cup) basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives (optional)
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the corn stock & sauce
  • 60 milliliters (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 small or 2 large Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 55 grams (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
  • 60 milliliters (¼ cup) white wine (optional; if preferred, omit and add a squeeze of lemon juice to the finished sauce)
  • 80 milliliters (⅓ cup) heavy cream
  • Fresh basil leaves, for serving
  • Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. For the pasta & filling
  2. Make the pasta dough by hand: Make the pasta dough by hand according to this “well-method” technique.

    Or, make the pasta dough in a food processor: Add the flour and eggs to the bowl of a food processor with the steel blade attachment. Pulse together until beads of dough (roughly the size of couscous) start to form, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a flat, ideally wooden, surface, combine it into a mass, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and firm.

    Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. While the dough rests, make the filling and start the corn stock (see second part of the recipe).
  3. Make the filling: Cut the corn kernels from their cobs. Reserve the cobs for the stock and 80 grams (½ cup) of the raw kernels for the sauce.

    Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the remaining corn kernels and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender and beginning to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. If the bottom of the pan starts to burn, add a touch of water to deglaze. Stir in the chili powder and smoked paprika and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Remove from the heat.

    Transfer the cooked corn to a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Reserve 55 grams (¼ cup) of this mixture for the stock.

    Combine the remaining corn purée with the ricotta, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and basil in a bowl or food processor. Stir in the chives if using and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few drops of lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl or piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
    Note: Filling can be made up to 2 days ahead.
  4. Roll the pasta sheets: Cut off a quarter of the pasta dough and tightly rewrap the rest.

    If using a pasta machine: Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand until it’s about ¼ inch thick. Set the pasta machine to its widest setting and roll the dough through once (it will be tapered at the ends). Fold both ends into the center like an envelope, so the width of the pasta sheet is similar in width to the pasta roller. Roll the dough through the widest setting once more so the result is an even rectangle.

    Continue rolling the pasta sheet through the machine one time on each progressive setting until you have a very thin sheet (about setting 7 or 8 on a Marcato Atlas 150 manual roller or KitchenAid attachment). If the dough is at all sticky as it goes through the machine, dust both sides with a light layer of ‘00’ or all-purpose flour.

    If rolling by hand: Roll the portion of dough with a rolling pin into as thin a rectangle as possible—it’s a workout! While you’re aiming for about a millimeter thick, don’t stress and just do the best you can.
  5. Assemble the casoncelli: Once you have a long, thin sheet of pasta, lay it on a wooden surface and trim any uneven edges (ball up the scraps and wrap them in plastic to rehydrate—they can be rerolled at the end.) If you don’t have a wooden surface, dust a little flour on the bottom of the pasta sheet and your countertop to prevent sticking.

    With a sharp knife or pasta wheel, cut the sheet in half lengthwise so you have two rows. Then cut the rows crosswise into squares (they should be about 6 cm/2½ inches).

    Spoon or pipe a scant teaspoon of the chilled filling in the center of each square, leaving a generous rim of dough around it.

    Position each square like a diamond. Fold the bottom corner up and over the filling, tucking the point under the dollop a little. Then roll the encased filling over itself toward (but not completely covering) the top point. Feel around for the edges of the filling pocket on either side and use your pointer fingers to press downward firmly to seal (see process images above).

    Place the finished casoncelli in a single layer on a tray or sheet pan dusted in coarse semolina flour or lined with a dry dish cloth. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

    Storage note: The casoncelli can be made in advance and frozen. Freeze them on the sheet pan until mostly solid, 20 to 25 minutes (you may need to do this in batches; make sure not to leave them uncovered in the freezer for too long or they’ll crack). Dust off any excess flour and transfer them to a freezer-safe bag until ready to cook—they’ll taste best within a couple of weeks, but they’ll last for up to a couple of months.
  1. For the corn stock & sauce
  2. Make the corn stock: Wrap the Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds in cheesecloth and tie a knot at the top. (This will prevent the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the pot as it cooks; if you don’t have cheesecloth, skip this step but make sure to stir the stock more often.) Cut the top off the garlic bulb crosswise so the cloves are exposed. Halve the onion through the root.

    In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the reserved corn cobs, as well as the garlic and onion—cut sides down—and cook until caramelized and the corn is browned on all sides, 3 to 5 minutes.

    Add the wrapped cheese rinds and spices, followed by 3 liters (12 cups) of water, or enough so everything is mostly submerged. Stir in the reserved corn purée. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook the stock, stirring occasionally, until it’s golden in color and reduced by half, about 2 hours.

    When the stock is done, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve. Set aside 225 ml (1 cup) for the sauce. Cool and season the remainder with salt to taste and store another use. It’ll keep in the fridge for up to 4 days and the freezer for 4 to 6 months (it’s great in sauces and soups!).
  3. Make the sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the reserved raw corn kernels, season with salt, and cook briefly, 2 to 3 minutes.

    Add the wine, if using, and simmer until almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Follow with the 225 ml (1 cup) of corn stock and simmer until reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and remove from the heat.
  4. Cook the pasta & finish the dish: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it generously. Gently drop in the casoncelli, shaking off any excess flour, and stir briefly to prevent sticking. Cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes, or to your liking.

    Return the sauce to low heat. Transfer the pasta directly to the sauce with a spider or slotted spoon, along with the remaining butter. Toss to coat and keep the pan moving until the butter has emulsified the sauce. Adjust seasoning to taste.

    Divide the casoncelli among plates. Serve immediately, topped with more sauce, fresh basil leaves, and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Meryl Feinstein is a chef and pastaia who left the corporate world for the food industry in 2018. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education, Meryl got her start at the renowned New York establishments Lilia and Misi, where she was part of the pasta production team. During that time, Meryl founded Pasta Social Club, a platform that brings people together over a shared love of food, learning, and making connections both on- and offline. She now lives in Austin, where she hosts virtual pasta-making workshops and develops recipes. Her dishes draw on her travels in Italy, ongoing research into the rich history of traditional pasta-making, and her Jewish heritage.

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