- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound mezzi rigatoni, penne rigate or cavatappi pasta
- 4 ears corn, husked
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
- 1/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 baking potato, peeled and diced into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning (half a palmful)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 red chili pepper, such as Fresno, seeded and chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- A few sprigs thyme, chopped
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- About 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- A few grates fresh nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook to al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
While the pasta is working, position a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat the broiler.
Place a small bowl upside down in a large bowl. Stand each ear of corn on the small bowl and scrape down the kernels.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of EVOO and the bacon and cook until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the corn, potato and Old Bay to the bacon drippings in the skillet and brown for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the celery, chili pepper, bell pepper, onion and garlic; season with the thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, then the milk; season with the mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce coats a spoon thickly; lower the heat to low. Stir in the Parmigiano Reggiano.
Add the corn-potato mixture and the white sauce to the pasta in the pot and stir together. Transfer to a casserole or serving dish, top with the cheddar and bacon and broil until brown and bubbly, 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately.