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Orecchiette with Caramelized Onions, Green Beans, Fresh Corn & Jalapeño

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Serves 4

  • by Scott Conant from Fine Cooking
    Issue 86

The flavors in this pasta build with each bite. Try it once, and it will become a summertime staple. If you can’t find orecchiette, you can use farfalle instead.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced sweet onion (from 1 large onion)
  • 1 lb. dried orecchiette
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is beginning to soften and brown, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and  continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onion is very soft and a light golden brown, about 15 more minutes (if the onion begins to look like it’s burning, add 2 Tbs. warm water and lower the heat).

Put the orecchiette in the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente, about 9 minutes. Add the green beans to the pasta water in the last minute of cooking.

While the pasta cooks, add the corn, jalapeño, and a pinch of salt to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn kernels begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta and green bean cooking water and drain the pasta and green beans together in a colander.

Return the orecchiette, green beans, and 2 Tbs. of the reserved water to the pot. Add the onion mixture and toss over medium heat until the green beans are crisp-tender and the orecchiette is perfectly al dente, 1 to 2 minutes. Add more of the pasta water as necessary to keep the dish moist. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to warm shallow bowls, and top each serving with the pecorino and parsley.

Serving Suggestions

Start the meal off with Shaved Asparagus Salad with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 680; Fat (g): 22; Fat Calories (kcal): 190; Saturated Fat (g): 4; Protein (g): 19; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 13; Carbohydrates (g): 104; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 570; Cholesterol (mg): 5; Fiber (g): 8;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I have made this many times. I made it as written the first time (in 2007) and noted in my magazine that it was "perfect". That said, since then I have made these changes: used 1/2 as much pasta, added thin red pepper strips (1/4 to 1/2) cup; added 1 strip of bacon, crumbled, and top the pasta with sliced grilled chicken. I never use 1/3C oil - way too much; 2-3 TBS is more than enough for 2C onions. I make the full recipe (with 1/2 the pasta)as a main dish for 2, (with the grilled chicken) and it usually ends up with about one serving left for some lucky person's lunch. I only use 1 chicken breast (really a half of a whole breast) and it is plenty. You could add a side of sliced tomatoes or a green salad, but we had it by itself and it was plenty! Might make it with a bit more corn, but it is fine as is. Husband and I agree it would be great as a room temp or slightly chilled side dish for a cook-out or picnic. Definitely has a firm place in the summer rotation.

My husband and I really enjoyed this last night. Added a baked chicken breast cut up into the pasta at the end. Followed the recommendation of others and only used half a pound of pasta and saved almost a cup of pasta water and used most of it. Great recipe! Does anyone have a thought on what the red ingredient would be that is in the picture? Maybe halved cherry tomatoes?

WOW! Delicious!!!! Easy to make and super fresh. We halved the pasta (used organic whole wheat orecchiette) and added grilled chicken. Better than restaurant quality. I would reserve a little extra pasta water just in case if you add chicken. I used the entire 1/2 cup of liquid and wished I had more. Goes down easy with a great sauv blanc (Villa Maria $13 at Costco). Cheers! This is one of our new favorite dishes to make. Highly recommend.

A great way to use up some leftover pasta. I used frozen corn, but other than that, followed the recipe as written. Would be nice with bay scallops or shrimp next time.

This dish is a sumptuous blend of textures and flavors--the sweetness of the corn is balanced by the mild jalapeno bite; the green beans are just crisp enough and the pasta nice and salty. Mr. Conant anticipated my questions and gave important preparation details. However, my husband and I agree that we would prefer a lower ratio of pasta to vegetables. And my husband likes a sauce with his pasta.

We really liked this summer pasta with grilled pork tenderloin. The heat from the pepper really gives it a nice dimension. I used more pasta water than called for by quite a bit - about double, I'd say. My husband liked it cold with lunch the next day even.

This was great. Veggies, pasta and the kick from the jalapeno make it a winner side dish in my house. I used canned corn and it was fine.

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