Is there anything sweeter than just-picked local corn? Or juicier than a homegrown tomato? They’re two of summer’s best offerings, and adding them to the menu breathes life into your backyard barbecue or summer picnic.
Often they’re paired in a cold salad or tossed in a simple saute, but here they’re the star of a creamy, cheesy casserole that can be prepared ahead of time and then baked right before serving.
The original recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, but I substituted colorful heirloom grape tomatoes that were so pretty at Delallo’s Italian Market in Jeannette I couldn’t resist buying them. If you can’t find fontina cheese, mild provolone, Gruyere or Gouda cheeses will be just as yummy.
1 pound penne
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup dry white wine
4 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs
8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups), divided
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup), divided
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, parsley or tarragon
Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, stirring often until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta in colander and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil. Set aside.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 400 degrees. Dry now empty pot and heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until golden, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in broth, cream and wine, smoothing out any lumps. Stir in corn and bring to a simmer.
Off heat, gradually whisk in 1 cup of fontina and ½ cup Parmesan into sauce until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Stir in tomatoes and pasta, breaking up any clumps. Transfer pasta mixture to a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1 cup fontina and ½ cup Parmesan.
Bake casserole until golden and bubbling around edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with basil and serve.
— “The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen (July 2017, $29.95)
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmkay.