Penne with Sweet Corn, Saffron and Smashed Cherry Tomatoes

Penne with Sweet Corn, Saffron and Smashed Cherry Tomatoes / Photo by Chelsea Kyle / Food Styling by Jamie Kimm / Prop styling by Megumi Emoto

Though the married couple behind Birdie’s are veterans of some of New York City’s most exalted fine-dining establishments, the focus of their Austin restaurant’s menu is simply prepared seasonal food. A quick and effortless corn stock in this recipe, for instance, provides a subtle corn flavor to the entire dish. The venue’s wine list is equally uncomplicated, anchored by environmentally mindful producers and changing to fit the kitchen’s offerings.

Courtesy Tracy Malechek, co-owner and chef, Birdie’s, Austin

(@birdiesaustin on Instagram)

Serving Size 4
1 pinch saffron (about 20 threads)
3 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut off
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1 pound fresh or dried penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 packed cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
ÂĽ cup fresh basil, roughly torn, plus more for garnish


Crumble saffron into 3 tablespoons very hot water, and set aside.

Break corn cobs in half, and place in large saucepan. Cover with 3 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt and set over high heat to boil. Cook 15 minutes, then discard cobs. Strain stock back into pan and keep warm over low heat.

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Meanwhile, add olive oil to large pan over medium heat. Add corn kernels, garlic, tomatoes and pepper flakes. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add 1 cup corn stock and saffron mixture. Cook about 3 minutes, crushing tomatoes with the back of spoon. Season with salt, to taste. Remove from heat.

Drain pasta and add to pot with corn mixture. Warm pot over low heat, and stir in butter until melted. Remove from heat, and add cheese and basil. Stir quickly until cheese is melted and sauce becomes creamy. Thin with more corn stock, if necessary.

Spoon into serving bowl or onto platter. Garnish with parmesan and basil, and serve immediately.

Wine Pairing

Thibaud Boudignon 2019 Blanc (Anjou)

“There’s a lithe and mineral quality to this organic and biodynamic Chenin with lots of green apple and wild herbs,” says Arjav Ezekiel, Birdie’s co-owner and beverage director. “It behaves like a condiment to the pasta, the mouthwatering acidity pierces through the richness of the corn and cheese in the dish, while the green apple plays treble to the saffron’s bass. Boudginon is one of my favorite winemakers anywhere on earth.”


Published on September 11, 2021