If you’re grilling, then you’ve got to have corn on the cob. Having it plain with butter and salt is good enough, but add some pesto to the whole thing and it becomes even better.

But how do you grill corn on the cob with pesto ?

It might sound complicated at first, but you’ll soon find out it’s easy to make, and it’s going to be a hit with your family and friends.

What You’ll need for grilled corn on the cob with Pesto

The recipe I’m giving you here uses fresh sweet corn, already shucked and with the silk removed. So this is raw corn, that I placed on the grill as-is.

As for prep and cook time, it’s a 20 minute job. 5 minutes to prep the corn, 15 to grill it, and you’re done.

This is what you’ll need:

  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and the silk removed
  • salt, pepper, and whatever seasonings you like
  • 6 tablespoons of pesto (or more, if you really like pesto)
  • Good quality parmesan, about half a cup

You’ll need to heat your grill to medium heat, and then place the corn on it. Rotate the corn every 3 minutes, until they’re tender crisp and nicely charred on all sides. This should take about 15 minutes if your corn is at room temp to start with.

Once the corn is done, take off the grill and plate it up. While it’s hot, brush it with the pesto sauce, and grate fresh parmesan all over it. The heat will melt the cheese and give it a nice finish.

I mentioned you can add any seasonings you like, though I doubt you’ll need much. Pesto itself should be a bit salty, and the parmesan should be salty enough on its own.

How You grill the corn matters

Of course, you can grill your corn whichever way you like. But if you’re looking for a comparisons to see which would go best with the pesto and parm, you have these 3 options.

In the husk

Grilling corn in the husk is going to give you a nice finish, but it’s messier to serve.

All you need is the corn, with husk and silk on, and to make sure they’re clean. Any possible bugs or dirt should be removed via thorough rinse with cold water.

The thing about using whole corn like this is that once it’s done, it still has the husk and silk. They will be easy to remove, but the corn should not be very hot, so you can handle it.

One way to get around this is to cook the corn almost all the way, take it off the grill, and then remove the husk and silk. Then, once it’s clean and juicy, place it back on the grill for a minute or two for a bit of charring.

This way you’ll be serving fresh corn, which is not very dry, mostly steamed and a bit smoked, but it will still have a bit of char flavor as well. And most of the nutrients will still be in the corn.

Do keep in mind that the corn husk will be blackened and a bit charred, and will probably smoke while on the grill. If this is a problem for you, then maybe using husked corn isn’t the best option for you.

Aluminium foil wrapping

Another way of grilling corn is to completely shuck it, rinse it on cold water, and then wrap it in aluminium foil. Using a double wrap o heavy duty foil is recommended, as turning the corn on the grill might rip the foil in some places.

Now, the best thing about using this method is that it’s easier to handle the food, and it keeps warm for a longer time. But you get less of a smoky flavor, and much less grill marks.

You can avoid this by opening up the foil more when the corn is halfway done, and using a pair of tongs to turn the corn inside the foil as it keeps grilling.

Now, adding pesto to this kind of grilled corn is going to look a little less impressive, since there won’t be that many char marks. But it will still taste great, especially if you take the corn off the grill, add the pesto and parm, and then close the foil back up (at least a little) so the cheese can melt.

Naked, right on the grill

The most basic way to grill corn, and probably the best, is to use shucked corn, and grill it as-is.

This is going to give you all the things you’re looking for in a grilled vegetable: char marks, smoke, and a bit of crunch in some parts if you leave it long enough.

The only problem with this is that you might dry out the corn too much if you leave it on the grill for longer than it needs to. On average the corn
The most basic way to grill corn, and probably the best, is to use shucked corn, and grill it as-is.

This is going to give you all the things you’re looking for in a grilled vegetable: char marks, smoke, and a bit of crunch in some parts if you leave it long enough.

The only problem with this is that you might dry out the corn too much if you leave it on the grill for longer than it needs to. On average the corn will cook in about 15 minutes, for medium sized corn.

Keep turning the corn every few minutes so it gets a nice, even color. How much color you want is up to you, but too much black is going to lend a bitter flavor to the corn, and probably dry it out as well.

With this way of grilling corn, which is the one I recommend, you can add the pesto as soon as you’ve removed the corn from the grill. Brush it on all sides, and be quick with the parmesan so it gets plenty of time to melt.

Basic home-made basil Pesto recipe

You can use store bought pesto if you have a brand that you love. Or you can make your own at home, a day before actually grilling the corn so the flavors get enough time to mix.

What you’ll need is:

  • 1 big bunch of fresh basil, should amount to 1 cup
  • 1/4 Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • salt and pepper to taste, keep in mind the cheese is salty enough

In a food processor, add the basil leaves and pine nuts. Set to chop and let it run until you get a fine enough chop for your liking.

Then, add the cheese and if you like it, you can add 2 teaspoons of grated garlic (optional). It’s not traditional, but it can go well with this.

Give the food processor another run, and when it’s done it’s time to add the olive oil.

Now, like with making mayo, you need to add the oil a little at a time, and slowly.

So let your processor to a low speed and add olive oil in a thin, steady stream. In a couple of minutes you should have a very green, very shiny pesto.

Why add the oil like that ? Because it helps emulsify it, along with the grated parmesan and the whole deal will be more coagulated. otherwise the oil will just sit on top of the pesto.

This should be refrigerated, and make sure to add a bit of clear plastic wrap directly to the surface of the pesto. This way it doesn’t oxidize, and it keeps its fresh green color for longer.

Add good quality parmesan to take it to the next level

Just a quick word on parmesan. There’s all kinds of parmesan you can find on the market, but not all of them are actually good.

For example the pre-grated and bagged kind is never going to be as fresh and flavorful as the actual block of parmesan you can find at your local cheesemonger.

Now, I know grating parmesan can be ridiculously tedious and you’re going to stand there for a few minutes, just grating. But it’s for a good cause. Think of the corn !

As for the exact type of parmesan, you should try and get Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sounds a lot like ‘original’ which is not what it means, but it’s the original, real parmesan you need.

This is because only in certain regions in Italy the necessary grass type and bacteria are found in order to make the authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

You’ll notice it’s the right parmesan if it’s got the little pinholes all over the sides, and it should clearly state the origin of the cheese. If you’re unsure, ask the vendor about it.

Conclusion

Grilling corn on the cob with pesto is a wonderful way to enjoy two very flavorful foods: corn and basil. Okay, and a bit of cheese.

But there are many ways to do this, and I hope this article’s given you a good grasp of how to grill your corn, and how to make a good pesto at home.

Grilling is a very rewarding experience, and it’s always going to improve the flavor of whatever you’re eating.

Thanks for reading!
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