I confess that I’ve never made pesto.  I know, I know, that makes me a bad person or at least a bad foodie, but I have a somewhat good excuse: I’m allergic to nuts.  I’ve always felt pesto just wasn’t pesto without pine nuts and figured I’d never be able to eat it, until I saw a thread on Serious Eats about pine nut substitutions in pestos.  There were many suggestions ranging from good-sounding (sunflower seeds, pepitas) to the bizarre (cooked quinoa- really?).  I kept these ideas in the back of my head, and recently there was a recipe posted on Serious Eats for a corn pesto that consisted of corn, cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts.  The recipe sounded like a good opportunity to use up some end-of-the season corn, as well as to try out a pine nut substitution.  Plus, there’s bacon in the sauce!  Cha-ching!

The recipe has multiple steps, and seeing as I hadn’t cooked at all in about three weeks (my boyfriend had been visiting from out of town and was doing a lot of the cooking), it was somewhat overwhelming.  But, it makes a ton of food, and it is delicious and addicting.  There’s the sweetness of the corn, the saltiness and crunch of the bacon, the creaminess of the sauce, all brightened up by bites of basil.  Yum!

A few tips: I thought I would be all smart and save time by cooking my pasta first, even though the recipe doesn’t have you do that til midway through…big mistake!  I forgot that fettucine becomes one big sticky blob of carbohydrates if you let it sit, drained, in a colander for half an hour.  This made re-incorporating the sauce with it difficult.  So just follow the recipe and you should be good to go.

The pine nut substitution I chose was pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds).  If they imparted any flavor to the pesto, I couldn’t really tell.  I think it was more of a texture enhancer.  However, now that I have a gigantic container of pepitas, I’m interested in trying them in a real basil pesto.  I’ll let you know how that turns out!

Pasta with Corn Pesto

Ingredients Cost
4 slices bacon, diced $1.00
4 c. fresh corn kernels from 6 ears $2.57
3 garlic cloves, minced $0.15
salt and pepper pantry
1/2 c. grated Parmesan $1.33
1/3 c. pine nuts or pepitas $0.80
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil pantry
3/4 lb. fettucine $0.75
3/4 c. basil, slivered $1.75
Total cost (6 servings) $8.35
Cost per serving $1.39

Cook the bacon in a skillet until the fat is rendered and bacon is starting to crisp, about ten minutes. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain on paper towels.  Now comes the fun and sinful part: cook the corn and garlic in the bacon fat and season with some salt and pepper.  Cook until the corn is tender, about five minutes.

Reserve ¾ c. of the corn (or more if you have a small food processor like me) and put the rest in a food processor.  Add the pine nuts or pepitas and parmesan cheese and blend.  With the machine running, add the olive oil and blend.  Add some water if it’s too thick.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain (reserving 1 ½ c. of the pasta cooking water) and put the pasta back in the pot.  Add the corn pesto, reserved corn, most of the basil, and most of the bacon.  Cook over low heat and stir to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking water as necessary to thin out.  Season with salt and pepper.  Plate the pasta, topping with extra basil, bacon, and cheese.