Fresh summer corn is one of my favorite things on the planet. I buy it in such quantities at the farmers market it’s actually a little insane. Though a fresh cob lightly steamed dripping with butter is a perfect summer treat, I also love corn baked in a creamy casserole, and it is an easy way to serve corn to a big crowd at a summer supper or cookout.
Last summer, I spent a month in Italy, exploring the food and cooking. When I returned home, I found myself a little obsessed with the flavors I had enjoyed so much there. I found myself putting basil, garlic, parmigiana and pecorino cheese in absolutely everything. I made enough pesto frozen in little cubes to feed Caesar’s armies, ate cacio e pepe every week and altered some of my favorite summer recipes to remind me of Tuscany.
And this is another example of that. Corn is not a particularly Italian ingredient, but I found myself one weekend with another oversized haul from the market, and a huge bunch of fresh basil and I just couldn’t resist reimagining one of my favorite corn casseroles with the fresh flavors of my Italian summer. And it was a big hit. The parmigiana is a nice departure from a typical cheddar cheese corn casserole. Use a good cheese to get the best result – real Parmigiano – Reggiano, not the bagged pizza cheese.
I love this corn casserole as a foil to a big American meal, a little touch of Italy in that most American of side dishes. You can double the recipe for a big crowd, and you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven while you fire up the grill. It’s perfect with steaks, burger and dogs or fried chicken or fish.
Parmigiano and basil baked corn
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth [editor's note: can substitute cooking wine]
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 ounce cream cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from about 10 ears
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet, one that will hold all the corn. Sauté the onions in the butter until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the garlic, stir well and cook until the wine is completely evaporated. Pour in the heavy cream, raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the grated cheese with the salt and pepper and stir until melted.
3. Add the corn and stir until it is well coated, then stir in the basil, making sure it is evenly distributed. Scrape the corn into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano evenly over the top. You can cool, cover and refrigerate this for several hours before baking.4. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 25 – 30 minutes.
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