I’m really excited about this dish because the pasta I’m using is made of corn! Can you believe it?!?
While I’m a huge fan of corn, I was just skeptical about it as pasta. Is it even possible to make good pasta with grains other than wheat? Okay, that’s a little dramatic as I’ve had wonderful Chinese noodles made of either rice flour or various kinds of bean. But we’re talking Italian here. Would corn produce something with similar texture and flavors to the “regular” semolina pasta that we’re all used to? I just couldn’t fathom the idea.
I had always thought using corn to make plastic was the final frontier for this New World grain, but after this marvelous corn penne, all I can say is that the Italians have taken this humble grain to a new dimension. So next time you spot corn pasta at your supermarket, don’t be afraid. Just go for it. You’ll be doing yourselves a huge favor.
To add a bit more excitement and protein to the dish, I used tempeh to it make it my favorite East meets West sort of dish.
Oh, yes, and for a health note: if you happen to have a friend who’s allergic to gluten (i.e. someone with celiac disease) this would be an excellent way to treat them right for a memorable dinner.
corn penne with tempeh in black pepper sauce
9 oz corn penne rigate cooked al dente per package instructions
1½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp good quality arbequina extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely grated Grana Padano cheese (or more!)
8oz piece garden veggie tempeh, cubed
1 tbsp canola oil
Place canola oil in a non-stick skillet, add tempeh, bring temperature to high and cook tempeh on various sides until golden yellow. Remove from pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.
Wipe remaining canola oil off the pan. Next add 3 tbsp olive oil, pepper and cook in low temperature for about a minute or so. Let oil get infused with the black pepper deliciousness. Add garlic, salt and cook for another minute or so without burning it. Toss in pasta and give it a good stir to coat. Transfer to a warm serving bowl, sprinkle ½ of the cheese over and delicately mix it in. Fold in tempeh. Garnish with the rest of the cheese and serve with a good red Tuscan or perhaps a Côtes du Rhône.
Have some extra cheese and olive oil on the table in case you or your guests want to splurge like I always do.