When I was a kid, my father used to bring home corn on the cob that had been picked 10 minutes earlier from a local cornfield. Slathered in butter and salt, it was spectacular.

I thought this basic approach corn on the cob could not be improved upon, but I was wrong. This recipe from the Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics cookbook definitely kicks it up a notch. Don’t get me wrong – freshly picked corn on the cob, in season, is fabulous. But most of the corn we get these days is transported over long distances, is tough or is not very sweet.

This recipe brings the best out of fresh corn, no matter what its age or sweetness, because the kernels are sautéed until they begin to caramelize, which eliminates the starchiness and toughness and brings out the sweetness. Just keep tasting the corn as you are cooking it until it’s perfect.

You can make this recipe with just corn, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and it is delicious. But the onion, pepper and fresh herbs add lovely colour and flavour.


2 tablespoons good olive oil

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 small orange bell pepper, 1/2-inch diced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Kernels cut from 5 ears yellow or white corn (4 cups)

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil, minced fresh chives, and/or minced fresh parsley leaves


Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft. Stir in the bell pepper and saute for 2 more minutes.

Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Over medium heat, add the corn, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the corn just loses its starchiness. Season to taste, gently stir in the basil or other green herbs, and serve hot. Serves 6.

From the Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics cookbook