Grate Your Corn, Not Your Nerves

This may be one of our all-time favorite vegetarian dishes! WOW, how we gushed over the flavors with ooo-gobs of taste in every bite! With the ingredients at the height of their season, especially sweet corn, the time is NOW to make this tasty Campanelle with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Basil recipe from The elements in this summery pasta dish are few, so fresh corn and ripe tomatoes are key.

The sauce is nice and creamy but made without cream because you grate the corn kernels from the cobs. To reinforce the corn flavor, the cobs are boiled in the water that is later used to cook the pasta. Brilliant!

Using a minimal amount of water—just 2½ quarts—means the flavors and starches are concentrated in the liquid, and then some of this liquid goes into in the sauce. Yellow corn gives the dish a golden hue, but white corn works, too. Whichever you use, make sure to remove as much of the silk as possible before grating.

Short, sauce-catching pasta shapes are best here—if you can’t find campanelle (a frilly, trumpet-like shape), look for penne rigate, fusilli or farfalle. However, the campanelle is just perfect for capturing the sauce and bits of corn, so really try to make an effort. I found it easy enough in our local supermarket.

Don’t fear the habañero chili in this dish. It does add a little heat (seeding the chili removes much of its burn), but it’s here mostly because its fruity notes are a nice complement to the corn, tomatoes and basil. If you have a delicate palette and are really sensitive to spicy heat, use just half of a habañero, but please don’t omit it altogether.

Although not necessary, add an extra flavor boost with a little grated parmesan as a garnish, it adds another salty/nutty note.


Campanelle with Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Basil

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 Ears corn, husked
  • 4 Tbsp. (½ stick) salted butter, cut into 4 pieces, divided
  • 2 Medium shallots, minced
  • 1 Habañero chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 12 oz. campanelle or other short pasta
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 1/2 qts. water (10 cups)


  1. In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; set aside.
  2. Set a box grater in a rimmed baking sheet or pie plate. Using the grater’s large holes, grate the corn down to the cobs; reserve the cobs.
  3. In a large pot, bring 2½ quarts water to a boil. Add the corn cobs (cut them in half to fit in the pot better) and 1 tablespoon salt, reduce to medium and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove and discard the cobs, then remove the pot from the heat.
  4. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the grated corn, shallots, chili and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the shallots have softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in 1½ cups of the cooking water. Cook over medium-low, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened (a spatula should leave a brief trail when drawn through the mixture), 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, return the remaining corn-infused water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  7. Add the pasta to the skillet and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the pasta is coated and the sauce is creamy, about 2 minutes; if needed, add the reserved cooking water 2 tablespoons at a time to reach proper consistency.
  8. Off heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the tomatoes with their juices and the basil, then toss until the butter has melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper.



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