There’s no better way to use up a surplus of produce than by roasting, sautéing or grilling vegetables and stirring them into whatever pasta shape you have in your pantry.
Corn and tomatoes are two ingredients that I use most pasta dishes. This happens every year. That’s because they scream summer, and they’re so quick to prep.
With basil pesto, this tomato corn orecchiette is frequently requested pasta during July and August and even into September.
You can make the pesto a few days in advance and store it in a jar in the refrigerator. Then when it comes time to make the pasta, you are all set on the sauce.
This is a fantastic option for a vegetarian summer dinner.
What is Orecchiette?
Shaped like little ears, orecchiette acts like a tiny, but powerful scoop. It is great for chunky sauces.
I also reach for orecchiette when I am making a pasta dish with a lot of vegetables. Again, because of its concave center, it easily picks things up.
So it should be no surprise why I am a fan of using corn and orecchiette together. The kernels end up nestled inside the pasta.
Orecchiette cooks quickly, usually in less than 10 minutes. As always for pasta, make sure to check the recommended cook time on the package. Brands can vary.
Of course you want the pasta to turn out al dente with a nice toothy bite, so make sure not to overcook it.
Can You Substitute Orecchiette Pasta?
Even though most of the time you can find orecchiette at the grocery, you can use a substitute.
Shape-wise, the closest would be shells, formally known as conchiglie. Shells will give you some of that scooping except with a more narrow opening.
I realize it’s tube shaped, but penne with ridges on the outside would also be a suitable swap.
This is what you need for this orecchiette pasta recipe:
Pesto: I definitely recommend making your own pesto. Pesto made with fresh basil, garlic and Parmesan is worth the effort. For this nut-free pesto, I add lemon juice.
Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes are my pick. You don’t need to bother cutting them. These small whole tomatoes will get juicy and wrinkle up as they sauté in the skillet.
Corn: I slice the kernels off 2 ears of corn. Look for husks that are tight and snug for the freshest cobs.
Orecchiette: With its open, cup-like shape, orecchiette scoops up the corn kernels and the pesto.
Scallions: I sauté the white parts of the scallions with the corn and tomatoes. Then I stir the scallion greens into the pasta for some onion flavor.
Olive oil: To cook the corn and tomatoes, I add extra virgin olive oil to the skillet.
Parmesan: Top the pasta with shaved Parmesan before serving it.
How To Make Tomato Corn Orecchiette
Before I start with the pasta and vegetables, I make the pesto. You absolutely can do this ahead of time. Just store the pesto in a container in the fridge.
To make the pesto, mince a couple garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor. Then add basil leaves, grated Parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Puree the mixture and pour the olive oil through the feeder tube with the motor running.
This pesto is bright and a touch citrusy from the lemon juice.
Once the pesto is finished, I move on to the pasta. I cook it in salted boiling water until it is just al dente.
Then I heat olive oil in a large skillet. Since the tomatoes need the most time, I add them to the pan first, stirring them around as they cook.
When the tomatoes start to wrinkle, I add the corn and white parts of the scallions. I continue sautéing. The sign I look for to know the vegetables are cooked is when the corn turns bright yellow.
At that point, I fold the pasta and pesto into the tomatoes and corn in the skillet along with the green parts of the scallions.
To finish the dish, I sprinkle on shaved Parmesan cheese.
What To Serve With Summer Pasta Recipes
I like to keep things simple with summer pastas. Assuming they are loaded with vegetables and seasonal produce, I pair them with a simple salad.
Often times that salad may be as basic as baby arugula with Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette.
I want the attention to stay on the main dish. The salad is just a quick side dish.
With cherry tomatoes, corn and pesto, this simple orecchiette pasta recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes. It also has Parmesan and lemon. The pesto is nut-free.
2 garlic cloves
1 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces orecchiette pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound grape tomatoes
2 ears corn, shucked and kernels sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
Shaved Parmesan for serving
For the pesto, mince the garlic in a food processor. Add the basil, Parmesan, lemon juice, salt and pepper and puree the mixture. With the motor running, pour the olive oil through the feeder tube until fully combined.
Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente according to package instructions.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the tomatoes until they start to wrinkle, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the corn and white parts of the scallions. Continue sautéing, stirring frequently, until the corn turns bright yellow and more of the tomatoes are wrinkled, about 3-4 minutes.
Stir the pasta and pesto into the tomatoes and corn with the green parts of the scallions. Top with shaved Parmesan.
You can make the pesto up to a few days in advance. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge.