Recipe

Creamy Corn Bucatini with Corn Ricotta and Basil

by Sasha Marx

The first time I made fresh ricotta I couldn’t believe how cool yet simple a process it was—take milk, heat it, add acid, let it sit, strain it, and boom: ricotta. I was working at Rialto in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I had to make that ricotta fresh every day for a summer salad. The initial sensation of magical sorcery eventually wore off, but I still enjoyed the process every time I made it, and during that daily routine I let my mind wander, thinking of ways I could play with the flavor of the ricotta. On days that I had a lighter workload, I began making a smaller second batch with an extra ingredient steeped in the milk, and I found that you could impart quite a bit of flavor to the final ricotta.

For this recipe I wanted to use sweet corn as both a purée for a pasta sauce and as a flavoring agent for a ricotta that would be later folded into that sauce. I found that these two processes work very well with sweet corn due to some of its inherent properties. Corn kernels contain naturally occurring cornstarch, which thickens into a pasta-coating sauce if heated above 150 degrees F/65 degrees C. At the same time, as Harold McGee notes, “heating also intensifies the characteristic aroma of corn, which is largely due to dimethyl sulfide, [which is] also prominent in the aroma of cooked milk.” Put another way: corn ricotta doesn’t just taste more like corn, it also tastes more like milk. And that’s a delicious win-win.

Yield
Serves 4 to 6
Corn_20Ricotta_20Pasta_044.jpg
Ingredients
2000 g whole milk
500 g corn kernels (about 4 ears)
60 g white vinegar
  Kosher salt and pepper
2000 g water
454 g bucatini
1 g pepper flakes
20 g fresh basil, torn into large pieces
2 quarts whole milk
4 cups (18 ounces) corn kernels (about 4 ears)
¼ cup white vinegar
  Kosher salt and pepper
2 quarts water
1 pound bucatini
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh basil, torn into large pieces
Essential Equipment
Instructions
    • 2000 g whole milk
    • 500 g corn kernels (about 4 ears)
    • 60 g white vinegar
    Heat milk and corn in large saucepan over medium heat until milk reaches 190 degrees F/88 degrees C. Strain milk into large bowl. Transfer corn kernels to blender along with ½ cup of strained milk; let cool for 5 minutes. Stir vinegar into milk in bowl and let sit until curds are fully formed, at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, blend milk and corn on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  1. Using back of ladle or rubber spatula, push corn puree through fine-mesh strainer into 12-inch skillet. Rinse and dry strainer, line with single layer of cheesecloth, and set over large Dutch oven or stockpot. 
    • Kosher salt
    Pour milk mixture into strainer and let drain until curds look like cottage cheese, about 5 minutes (do not discard whey). Transfer ricotta to bowl; if ricotta is dry and crumbly, adjust with reserved whey as needed to achieve creamy texture. Season with salt to taste. Measure out 195 grams ricotta for pasta and refrigerate remaining ricotta for other use (you will have about 195 grams to refrigerate).
    • 2000 g water 
    • Kosher salt 
    • 454 g bucatini
    Add water to whey in pot and bring to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is flexible but still firm, about 5 minutes. Reserve 454 grams pasta water and drain pasta.  
    • 1 g pepper flakes
    • Kosher salt and pepper
    While pasta cooks, add pepper flakes to corn puree and place over low heat. Transfer pasta and 340 grams reserved pasta water to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until pasta is well coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Adjust consistency with remaining pasta water, season with salt and pepper to taste, and divide among shallow bowls.  
    • 20 g fresh basil, torn into large pieces
    Dollop cup ricotta evenly over top of pasta and garnish with basil. Serve immediately. 
Instructions
    • 2 quarts whole milk
    • 4 cups (18 ounces) corn kernels (about 4 ears)
    • ¼ cup white vinegar
    Heat milk and corn in large saucepan over medium heat until milk reaches 190 degrees F/88 degrees C. Strain milk into large bowl. Transfer corn kernels to blender along with ½ cup of strained milk; let cool for 5 minutes. Stir vinegar into milk in bowl and let sit until curds are fully formed, at least 5 minutes. Meanwhile, blend milk and corn on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  1. Using back of ladle or rubber spatula, push corn puree through fine-mesh strainer into 12-inch skillet. Rinse and dry strainer, line with single layer of cheesecloth, and set over large Dutch oven or stockpot. 
    • Kosher salt
    Pour milk mixture into strainer and let drain until curds look like cottage cheese, about 5 minutes (do not discard whey). Transfer ricotta to bowl; if ricotta is dry and crumbly, adjust with reserved whey as needed to achieve creamy texture. Season with salt to taste. Measure out ¾ cup ricotta for pasta and refrigerate remaining ricotta for other use (you will have about ¾ cup to refrigerate).
    • 2 quarts water 
    • Kosher salt 
    • 1 pound bucatini
    Add water to whey in pot and bring to boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt and pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is flexible but still firm, about 5 minutes. Reserve 2 cups pasta water and drain pasta.  
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper flakes
    • Kosher salt and pepper
    While pasta cooks, add pepper flakes to corn puree and place over low heat. Transfer pasta and 1½ cups reserved pasta water to skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until pasta is well coated with sauce, about 1 minute. Adjust consistency with remaining pasta water, season with salt and pepper to taste, and divide among shallow bowls.  
    • ¼ cup fresh basil, torn into large pieces
    Dollop cup ricotta evenly over top of pasta and garnish with basil. Serve immediately. 
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