Pasta with Tomatoes, Corn, Herbs & Feta

I am guessing it’s not easy being married to me. My temper can be short, and I have a habit of insisting on getting my way. But Joe’s soldiered on in our union for nine years. There are times I figured we might not be married by now, still. This may be normal, as far as marriages go. That every marriage is a locked box both perplexes and delights me, because there’s no need to measure what Joe and I have against larger yardstick: if it’s working, hey, go with it. I have friends who I look at and assume they must be living in harmony and bliss, but you never know. I have other friends who I marvel are still together. Knowing why and how is not my job, though; it’s theirs.

In those heartfelt odes to spouses I see people post on Facebook, this notion of a husband being “my best friend” comes up a lot. And fine if it is true for them, but Joe is not my best friend, because I already had a best friend when we met. There are things I tell Joe that I’d never tell a friend, and there are things I tell friends that I’d never tell him. It works because he gets that. I don’t want Joe to be everything to me. That seems unfair.

Today’s our anniversary. Earlier, I’d told Joe we were going to have tortilla Española with romesco sauce and a big tossed salad for dinner, and he was enthused. Our initial hope was to go to the Buckley House, which is our town’s dependable fancy-pants restaurant, but we’re low on cash at the moment, and a Buckley House dinner is not for lean times.

Some unexpected construction at my daughter’s daycare facility threw off my schedule, though, and I realized making romesco sauce would take longer than I’d like and create unwanted stress. So I switched to pasta with sweet corn and tomatoes instead. To me it’s the pinnacle of Ohio recipes, because sweet corn and tomatoes are the best we have to offer. Joe didn’t want to move here to Ohio, but he did. He’s still ambivalent. But I feel like I’m in my element. How can two people be so compatible yet never fully happy in the same location?

Joe does not do well with sudden changes, but he was okay with our dinner switchup. It resulted in fewer dirty dishes to clean, always a plus. We drank a $5.99 bottle of Spanish Tempranillo with our pasta. The herbs and tomatoes had come from our backyard; the corn, from a field somewhere in our county. It’s definitely GMO corn, engineered to be as sweet as a cold glass of Southern iced tea, but you can’t win ‘em all. And so goes marriage. You can’t have everything in one person. Spending life with a boring husband, to me, would be a terrible fate. Out marriage has been anything but boring, so we must be doing something right. Maybe I’ll make this pasta again in another nine years, for our 18th anniversary. Maybe we’ll go to the Buckley House instead. Does it matter? An anniversary is one day a year. It’s the other 364 days that really count.   

Pasta with Tomatoes, Corn, Herbs, and Feta

Serves 4

It was only after residing in a handful of other states that I realized the superiority of Ohio-grown tomatoes. This pasta cannot be made with grocery store produce; it is a summer-only dish. You can throw together sweet corn and beautiful homegrown tomatoes—the most coveted of summery Ohio foods—to make an incredibly fresh, flavorful pasta dish in a flash.

  • 3 to 4 large, ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 to 3 ears fresh corn, or 1-2 cups cooked corn cut from leftover cobs of sweet corn* (and cripes, please don’t use grocery store corn or frozen corn. Not this time.)
  • Kosher salt, as needed
  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 4 large cloves garlic, sliced very thinly crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, or a combination of fresh basil, thyme, and oregano (go heavy on the basil and lighter on the other herbs)
  • 4 to 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Place the chopped tomatoes in a medium bowl. Add the Aleppo pepper; season generously with salt. Toss to combine and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water on to boil. If the corn hasn’t been cooked already, plunge the whole ears of corn into the water and cook for five minutes. Don’t drain the water; you’ll use it for cooking the pasta. When cool enough to handle, cut the ears from the corn and set aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain..

Meanwhile, in a 9- to 10-inch skillet, heat the garlic and olive oil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is a light golden-brown (do not allow to burn). Add the corn and cook until it’s heated through. Add the tomatoes and cook for just a minute. Remove from heat.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it. Add the saucy tomato-corn mixture; toss with the feta cheese and basil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Cover for a minute or two to let the pasta absorb the juices form the tomato sauce.

Divide the pasta among serving dishes. Crumble the feta cheese over each bowl and serve.

*Sometimes, leftover corn that’s been cut off the cob and stored for several days (or frozen and thawed) can be soggy. To dry it out and perk up the flavor, I toast it a heavy, dry medium skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until charred spots appear on the corn, 2 to 3 minutes.