This recipe is a twist on an old Italian-American classic antipasto: prosciutto wrapped around cantaloupe. I grew up eating this combination at every big dinner party or holiday meal. I have one gripe with this classic: eating a big crescent hunk of cantaloupe surrounded by meat is not easy to do in a polite way or with just one hand. This simple salad not only makes for easier, classier eating, but also pumps up the flavor with the addition of basil, lemon, and parmesan. This recipe captures the essence of Italian food: pick good quality ingredients and then let them shine.

I normally do not care for fruit in salads; including berries in a green leafy salad usually seems to push the dish too far into sweet territory. I know some people love these types of dishes, but if I want salad, I want it to be savory and earthy, not sweet. This recipe is my one exception to my “no fruit in salads” rule. The saltiness of the prosciutto and the parmesan balance out the mild sweetness of the melon; the basil adds freshness and the lemon zest gives the dish a nice hit of brightness.

This dish makes for a great appetizer or a side dish. It can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until it is time to serve. To me, this dish feels more special than an ordinary green leafy salad, but still easy and approachable; if I’m making a big dinner for guests, the last thing I want to spend a lot of time on is salad. I hope the next time you’re considering what side to put on the table, you give this Italian classic a try. Mangia!

Recipe

1 cantaloupe

1 honeydew melon

4 oz prosciutto slices

3 oz piece of parmesan cheese

1 lemon

2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper

  1. Using a melon baller, ball the cantaloupe and honey dew. If you don’t have a melon baller, cut the melons into equal size chunks, about 1 inch squares.
  2. With a vegetable peeler or cheese cutter, shave off large, thin strips of parmesan cheese.
  3. Using your hands, tear the prosciutto into thin strips. These pieces can be irregular in shape.
  4. Zest the lemon.
  5. Add the melon to a serving dish. Top with prosciutto, parmesan, lemon zest, and basil. Toss gently together. Drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently again. Enjoy!

Historian, writer, and enthusiastic home-cook

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