Corn (Mais)

Although corn is not native to Italy it does have Italian roots, as it was introduced to the western world by Italian explorer Christopher Columbus.

For western civilization, the story of corn began in 1492, when Columbus and his men discovered this new grain in Cuba. An American native, it was exported to Europe rather than being imported, as were other major grains. Like most early history, there is some uncertainty as to when corn first went to Europe. Some say it went back with Columbus to Spain, while others report that it was not introduced until the second visit of Columbus.

At first, corn was only a garden curiosity in Europe, but it soon began to be recognized as a valuable food crop. Within a few years, it spread throughout Italy, France and all of southeastern Europe. Today, thousands of uses for corn products have been discovered and more uses are being found each day.

Below are our favorite Italian-inspired corn recipes. Try them for your next barbeque or summer dinner party and enjoy this American favorite with Italian origins.

Parmigiano Corn on the Cob


Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Ingredients Preparation
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ears yellow corn, husked, halved crosswise
Heat the oil in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until tender and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat and cool. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese and stir the rest into the garlic mixture, along with the parsley and salt.

Cook the corn in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the corn to a platter. Brush the cheese mixture over the hot corn and serve. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese on top of the corn.

Fresh Corn Soufflé with Pancetta and Fontina


Ingredients Preparation
  • unsalted butter, for rubbing
  • freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, for coating
  • salt
  • 4 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/4 pound thickly sliced pancetta, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch strips
  • 1 cup milk
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 6 large egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter a 1-1/2-quart soufflé dish and coat it with the Parmigiano. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add salt and the corn and boil over high heat just until tender, about 5 min.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, cook the bacon over high heat for 1 min, then reduce the heat to moderate and cook until browned, about 5 min longer.

Using tongs, transfer the corn to a plate. Drain off the water and return the saucepan to the stove. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs; you should have 2 1/2 cups. Put 2 cups of the kernels in the saucepan and add the milk. Simmer over moderate heat until the milk has reduced by one-third, about 5 min. Transfer the corn and milk to a blender and puree until very smooth. Scrape the puree into a large bowl and stir in the bacon and the remaining 1/2 cup of corn kernels. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir in the egg yolks, Fontina and thyme. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature.

In a large stainless steel bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at high speed until they hold firm peaks. Stir one-third of the whites into the corn base to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites until just blended. Scrape the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish and bake for 45 min, or until nicely browned and slightly jiggly in the center. Serve right away.

Sweet Grilled Corn Cakes

Ingredients Preparation
  • cooking spray
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg or 2 large egg whites
Coat a large griddle with cooking spray and preheat to medium-high.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Mix well with a fork and make a well in the center.

In small bowl, whisk together milk, honey, oil, and egg. Pour mixture into center of dry ingredients and mix until just blended.

Pour 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each corn cake. Cook 2 minutes per side, until puffed up, golden brown and cooked through.

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