I’m here to spit some definitive truth at you guys. Ready? Corn is the world’s most perfect food. That’s it. The end.
I love it grilled and dripping with melted butter. I love it raw in a salad, its firm and juicy kernels bursting with each bite. I mean truly, this is one of those situations where you just can’t go wrong. And I might be a little biased here, but sweet corn-filled pasta? Well, that’s just perfection.
This sweet corn caramelle recipe is inspired by our signature dish at Petite Pasta Joint: sweet corn caramelle in miso brown butter. Only this time, instead of using miso, I’m drawing out the umami notes from a hunk of delicious, aged Grana Padano cheese. “Grana” means hard grating cheese and “Padano” is the region where it’s produced. You learn something new every day! I use PDO-certified Grana Padano which means the cheese has been produced using the strict standards that have guided Grana Padano production for many, many years. I love the nutty sharpness it adds to the sweet pasta filling. It also melts seamlessly into a glossy, buttery sauce laced with tangy lemon zest and punchy garlic. Pair all that with some fresh notes of basil and *chef’s kiss* - that’s summer in a bowl.
One note on the basil use in this dish:
I opted to laminate basil into the actual pasta dough because I think it looks beautiful. However, you can just as easily add basil to the pasta sauce and achieve the same flavors! Typically laminating herbs into pasta dough is no big deal but basil leaves tend to have rigid stems/spines and unless you take the time to remove them, they can tear the pasta dough. This additional step can take some time. So feel free to not get *as* extra as me and just wilt some basil into the pasta sauce/garnish with it. Your choice.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
WHAT YOU NEED
2 and 1/4 cups flour
3 large eggs + 1 egg yolk (or 4 medium-sized eggs)
Pinch of salt
20+ leaves basil*
*if you’re laminating basil into the dough!
1 cup ricotta
¾ cup (about 2 ears) of corn, boiled and sliced from the cob
1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
S+P to taste
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, separated
½ cup pasta water
½ cup Grana Padano cheese, grated
Juice of ½ lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
Basil for garnish
WHAT YOU DO
Follow my detailed instructions for making pasta dough linked here.
While the pasta dough is resting, let’s make our filling:
Pulse corn kernels in a blender or food processor. Don’t get too crazy though - we don’t want them to turn into a puree. Texture is nice! (if you don’t have a blender you can chop them up finely with your knife).
Use a cheesecloth or a mesh strainer to strain out excess moisture from the corn.
Add the strained & blended corn to a bowl along with ricotta and Grana Padano cheese. Mix it up, season to taste, and drizzle with some olive oil. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
Now it’s pasta time. As I mentioned, you can get extra with me and laminate basil into the actual pasta dough or you can simply use basil in the sauce. If you’re planning on laminating, make sure to first prep your basil leaves by removing any hard spines from them (these have the potential to tear the dough!).
We are going to work with ½ the dough at a time so be sure to replace the second half in plastic so it doesn’t dry out.
Using a KitchenAid pasta attachment, hand-crank, or just a straight up rolling pin, roll the dough out until it’s VERY thin (see-through, a level 6 on the KitchenAid pasta attachment).
Place the sheet of pasta on a well-floured surface so the longest edge is closest to you. Disperse basil over ½ of the pasta sheet. If you have a spray bottle, mist the other side of the sheet with water. If not, use a pastry brush or your fingers to brush it gently with water - this will help the pasta sheets fuse together. Fold the herbless half of the pasta over the basil half.
Now it’s time for the lamination: use a rolling pin (or wine bottle, I don’t judge) to firmly seal the sheets of dough together. Continue rolling out the dough until it reaches desired thin-ness either by hand or using your KitchenAid.
Using a bicicleta, a pizza wheel, or simply a knife + straightedge, cut the sheet of dough into rectangles sized about 3x2 inches. If you want fancy frilly edges like the ones in the photo, you can use a fluted pastry wheel to cut the short edge of the rectangles.
We are going to work with about 3 rectangles at a time, so place a damp kitchen towel on the others lest they dry out and crack.
Place about ½ tsp of filling at the bottom center of each rectangle. Roll the rectangle into a tube, then trap the filling by pinching down on either side of it with your index fingers. Pinch together the edges surrounding the filling and voila! Look at that candy-shaped pasta. Place the finished caramelle on a floured sheet pan and repeat the process until your dough and/or filling are finished.
Let’s put it all together:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add caramelle and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until all the pasta is floating. Taste a piece to make sure it’s appropriately al dente and not raw!
Meanwhile, add 4 tbsp butter to a large skillet on med-low heat. Add garlic and allow it to become fragrant, then add lemon zest. And if you didn’t laminate the basil into the pasta dough, right now would be a good time to add some: garnishing with basil is awesome but if you add the leaves directly to the hot skillet, they’ll release more aroma and flavor into the sauce itself.
Use a spider strainer to transfer the cooked caramelle from the pot to the skillet along with your pasta water, lemon juice, the remaining 2 tbsp of cold butter and Grana Padano cheese. Stir stir stir! The hot pasta water and cheese will emulsify into a glossy sauce. If the sauce looks dry, add more pasta water and continue stirring. Salt to taste.
Garnish with lemon zest and basil, and serve!