As the year is not 2017, when the cacio e pepe frenzy (outside of Rome, where it’s never not on the menu) seemed to have reached peak frenzy and when I put a cross between potatoes Anna and cacio e pepe on the cover of my second cookbook, I’d only choose the dog days of summer 2023 to talk about cacio e pepe once again for a single reason: A worthy update. The only thing I love more than the combination of salty, funky pecorino cheese and copious amounts of black pepper kicking up sparks of heat on a tangle of linguine is the way I make it in the summer: adding sweet, crunchy corn. It is, full stop, the perfect complement to the punchy cheese sauce; they’re made for each other.
If you’re getting deja-vu, it’s because I shared a version of this in 2019 in my Bon Appetit column about feeding picky eaters. But in an effort to make it in as few steps as possible, I added the corn to the pasta cooking water 30 seconds before the pasta was done. Faster! Easier! Everyone wins… right? But it never stuck for me at home. Sometimes a small extra step is worth it, and I so vastly prefer this with the corn first blistered in a pan, I held off for four years but I cannot keep this truth to myself any longer.
Something amazing happens when you add fresh corn to a thin layer of oil in a scorching hot pan — the undersides toast and crisp, a few kernels jump in the air [“whoopee!”] and the whole thing smells a little like popcorn in a way that quick-simmered corn could never. This dish has everything: ease and depth, seasonality and seasoning, and I hope you get obsessed with it too, and soon, before the corn is gone and the cardigans arrive.
Pasta on the brain? We just spent two weeks in Italy and I’ve written up everywhere we went and everything we did on our vacation. See also previous vacations in: Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, London, New Orleans, and Spain.
6 months ago: Pasta with Longer-Cooked Broccoli
1 year ago: Corn Butter Farro
2 year agos: Baked Farro with Summer Vegetables
3 years ago: Mathilde’s Tomato Tart
4 years ago: Black Pepper Tofu and Eggplant
5 years ago: Foccacia Sandwiches for a Crowd
6 years ago: Blackberry-Blueberry Crumb Pie
7 years ago: Summer Squash Pizza, Peach Melba Popsicles, and Chile-Lime Melon Salad
8 years ago: Raspberry Crushed Ice
9 years ago: Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime, and Ginger and Apricot Pistachio Squares
10 years ago: Charred Corn Crepes, Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini and Strawberry, Lime, and Black Pepper Popsicles
11 years ago: Pink Lemonade Bars and Charred Pepper Steak Sauce
12 years ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
13 years ago: Everyday Chocolate Cake and Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
14 years ago: Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons and Sour Cherry Slab Pie
15 years ago: Cantaloupe Salsa and Plum Kuchen and Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
16 years ago: Huevos Racheros, Blueberry Crumb Bars, Napa Cabbage Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, and Quick Zucchini Sauté
17 years ago: Moules Frites
Corn Cacio e Pepe
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) olive oil
- About 3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 medium-large ears)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) butter, salted or unsalted
- 1 pound (455 grams) dried linguine or another pasta of your choice
- 8 ounces (225 grams) pecorino romano cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks, plus a few extra gratings for garnish
Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil and cook linguine until about 30 seconds short of perfect. [We’re not going for a full al dente here because the pasta dish is finished off the heat, thus will not continue cooking.] Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Get your sauce ready before the pasta has finished cooking, as we want to add it to piping hot noodles. In a food processor or high-speed blender, blend pecorino and approximately 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper until the cheese is in as fine pieces as it can get. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water, one at a time, fully blending each addition before adding the next. You’re looking to take the cheese from a powdery to a creamy consistency, like frosting for a cake; blend the mixture as long as is needed (about 1 minute) to get it there. Taste the mixture: it should be very salty and peppery; add more pepper if needed (aged pecorino is usually very salty, but if you’re using something else, add salt here too).
Assemble and eat: As soon as your pasta is drained, add it back to the empty pot along with the black pepper-pecorino sauce. The sauce will be too thick for the job, but do your best to distribute it evenly over the noodles. Then, begin adding the reserved pasta water, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, tossing the pasta the whole time. This will loosen the cheese mixture into a nice saucy consistency. Keep adding water, tossing the whole time, but not so much that the sauce “washes” off the noodles. Add reserved corn and toss to mix, then transfer everything to a serving bowl. Finish with more cheese and black pepper and eat right away.
Do ahead: This is not my favorite dish to reheat, but you can make the corn in advance (an hour or a day, just reheat it), and the cheese-pepper sauce (up to a week in the fridge), and have everything ready to go when the pasta is piping hot.