Esquites-Style Poblano Pasta Salad


  • 12 ounces uncooked orecchiette pasta
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 6 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from about 8 large ears)
  • 1 (about 4 ounces) bunch scallions, root ends and dark green parts trimmed
  • 1 medium (about 7 ounces) zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium-size (5 ounces) poblano chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chile powder, plus more for garnish
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, or more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons crema Mexicana
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus cilantro leaves for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated using a Microplane grater (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup), divided


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add corn; cook, stirring occasionally, until kernels are lightly charred and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer corn to a large bowl. Wipe skillet clean. Add scallions to skillet; cook over medium-high, turning occasionally, until lightly charred, about 4 minutes. Transfer scallions to a cutting board, and thinly slice crosswise. Add scallions to corn in bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to skillet, and reduce heat to medium. Add zucchini and poblano; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown in some spots, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add zucchini, poblano, orecchiette, olive oil, black pepper, ancho chile powder, and 3 1/4 teaspoons of the salt to corn mixture in bowl; toss to combine. Let mixture cool at room temperature, about 30 minutes. (If desired, cooled corn mixture may be chilled at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours and served cold. Season with salt, if desired, before continuing.)

  4. Whisk together crema, mayonnaise, chopped cilantro, lime zest and juice, garlic, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until combined. Transfer corn mixture to a large platter or bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup crema mixture; garnish with 3 or 4 grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of ancho chile powder. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Cotija, and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve pasta salad with remaining ½ cup crema mixture and ¼ cup Cotija for drizzling and sprinkling on top.