Want to start a lively discussion among food-loving friends? Ask whether white sweet corn or yellow sweet corn is better. You may be surprised by how emotional some people get in defending their preferences.

What is summer cooking without fresh sweet corn? Whether you boil, steam, or grill it and then slather it with butter to eat right off the cob, or cut off the kernels to include in a summer salad, the vegetable's sweetness and juiciness capture the very essence of the season's sunshine.

Both white and yellow corn are among the countless hybrids that have evolved from the ancient Latin American grain -- and, indeed, there are many different varieties within each color. You'll hear lots of opinions comparing their flavors and textures, stating that white kernels are sweeter and juicier, while yellow has more texture and robust "corny" flavor. Experts will tell you that people in the American South tend to prefer white corn, while Northerners gravitate toward yellow. And from that information, I draw the conclusion that the very best sweet corn is the kind you grew up eating.

The sweet corn I love best is whatever is freshest in my farmers' market. Right now, that means white corn, which is beginning to reach its peak of season in many areas. And one of the reasons I love it is that it enables me to prepare one of my all-time favorite filled pastas: White Corn Agnolotti.

Typical of the Italian habit of giving pasta shapes fanciful names ("agnolotti" means priests' caps), these little bite-sized ravioli cousins feature a filling of white corn freshly grated from the cob, mixed with cream, cheeses, and seasonings, tossed in a quick broth-and-butter sauce. They literally burst with summertime flavor. (At Spago, we typically also top them with freshly shaved white truffles, a wonderful luxury that you can skip at home.)

I also include here a basic recipe for homemade fresh pasta dough. But nowadays you can sometimes find sheets of ready-to-use fresh pasta in gourmet markets and Italian delis. (If you see the market or deli sells its own house-made fresh pastas but doesn't have ready-to-purchase sheets of pasta dough on display, ask if they have any in back that they could sell you. You'll often get a positive answer.)

My recipe yields about 240 little filled pastas, enough to serve 10 to 12 people generously. If you want to save some uncooked agnolotti for another meal, spread them out on a lightly floured baking sheet and freeze until solid, then pack in freezer storage bags. Add an extra minute or two to their boiling time.

One final tip: If you prefer yellow corn, or it's the only type available, by all means make Yellow Corn Agnolotti!


Serves 10 to 12


1 cup heavy cream

4 ears white organic sweet corn, grated with the medium holes of a box grater

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces mascarpone cheese

1 ounce goat cheese

1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese