One of my Christmas gifts this year was Giada de Laurentis’ newest cookbook, Giada’s Italy. As I flipped through it, I came upon a recipe for “Penne with Corn and Spicy Sausage.” It sounded delicious, but I was more intrigued by the fact that it reminded me of another dish I once had. A few weeks after my son was born, my parents’ hosted a get together at their house for my dad’s maternal relatives. At the time, I was staying with them because my husband had recently relocated to a different city and state for his residency program. Since we were all overwhelmed by the chaos brought about by a newborn, my mum decided to have the event catered by one of our favorite local restaurants, The Pines Tavern. One of the items served was an amazing pasta salad with bacon, corn, and tomatoes. I fell in love with it, dreamed about it, and swore that one day I would recreate it. When I saw Giada’s recipe, I immediately thought it would be the perfect spring-board, and, oh my God, it was. Sweetness from corn, savory from bacon, fresh acidity from tomatoes, all pulled together in a decadent, creamy sauce. While this is not a pasta salad, it hit every element of that dish. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
1 lb orecchiette
1/2 lb bacon, strips cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cups corn (fresh if in season, but canned or frozen is totally fine—just be sure to thaw if frozen)
8 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orecchiette and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the bacon is fully cooked and crispy, remove it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Remove the rendered fat from the pan, leaving 1 Tbsp.
3. Add the shallots to the pan and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the corn to the skillet and stir to combine.
5. Add the mascarpone cheese to the skillet and stir to combine. Once the cheese is melted, and the reserved cooking liquid, the Sriracha, and the freshly ground black pepper.
6. Add the orecchiette, bacon, and Parmesan cheese to the skillet. Stir to combine. Once the Parmesan cheese has melted, add the tomatoes and basil. Stir to combine. Serve immediately with more Parmesan cheese, if desired.
DeLaurentis, Giada. “Penne with Corn and Spicy Sausage,” Giada’s Italy. New York: GDL Foods, Inc., 2018. Page 120.