Some days we feel like cooking, but other days we prefer to keep things simple and just assemble our meals. It was in this spirit that we had prosciutto e melone, or prosciutto and cantaloupe, for lunch on a sunny Saturday afternoon in June. This classic Italian dish is best in the summertime when melons are sweet and fragrant. The sweetness of the cantaloupe is offset by the saltiness of the prosciutto, and you are left wondering who was the first to realize how perfectly these two flavors go together.
We served our prosciutto e melone the classical way – slices of prosciutto draped over slivers of melon. You can be inventive, however, and wrap cubes of melon in prosciutto and spear them onto a skewer, or simply serve the prosciutto and cantaloupe side by side with a fork and a knife, perhaps with a few ovolini di mozzarella.
We enjoyed our prosciutto e melone with a wonderful Sicilian white wine called Insolia, produced by Cusumano. The Insolia grape is indigenous to Sicily. The wine has notable aromas of tropical fruit, a good minerality, and a medium acidity that enhances the saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the melon.
- Slice the canteloupe in half and remove the seeds.
- Cut the canteloupe into spears.
- Use a paring knife to remove the rind.
- Slice a thin layer off of the top of each spear in order to remove extra juices and create a clean, smooth surface.
- Wrap each spear with one slice of prosciutto.
- Arrange them on a plate or platter and serve immediately.
When selecting a melon, look for one that is beige or golden yellow, not green. It should be firm - neither too soft nor too hard - with no bruises or soft spots. The stem should be slightly indented and the blossom (on the opposite side of the stem) should smell sweet. No smell suggests that the melon is not yet ripe, but if it smells too sweet or acidic it is likely too ripe.
Go to the trouble of finding good quality, Italian prosciutto. If you are purchasing it at a deli counter, as for it to be cut thin, but not so thin that it tears.