Prosciutto and melon is the quintessential Italian summer appetizer, one of the most popular and characteristic combinations in Italian cuisine.
A few high quality ingredients skillfully combined. The delicate, paper-thin slices of Italian prosciutto perfectly complement the juicy sweetness of ripe melon. In just a few minutes, you can enjoy an exceptional treat!
Originating from Italy, prosciutto or “prosciutto crudo” has been a culinary staple for centuries. Its melt-in-your-mouth texture and rich, savory flavor make it an ideal ingredient to enhance a variety of dishes.
Melons, on the other hand, bring a burst of freshness and natural sweetness to the table. Their vibrant colors and juicy flesh contrast beautifully with the salty, velvety prosciutto.
Prosciutto and Melon is not only an appetizer. It’s often enjoyed as a tasty and fresh main course, perfect in the summer. Among the seasonal summer fruits, melon dominates the menus of outdoor lunches and dinners, where it’s always paired with prosciutto. This dish, along with caprese salad, brightens our tables by providing nourishment and freshness on hot summer days.
We’ll embark on a culinary journey to unravel the secrets behind the perfect marriage of prosciutto and melon. We will explore the origins, the cultural significance, and the nuances of this divine union!
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Prosciutto and Melon Recipe
PLEASE NOTE: We have assumed two or three slices of melon per person. Of course, the amount depends on the size of the melon and especially on how you will use it. If you are making an appetizer or an aperitif, this will be enough. On the other hand, if you are using it as a cool summer lunch, you may want to consider larger doses of both prosciutto and melon.
- Prep Time: 5 Min
- Cook Time: 0 Min
- Servings: 4
Prosciutto and Melon Ingredients
- 1 large cantaloupe melon or two small ones
- 200 g (about 10-12 slices) of Prosciutto Crudo
Step 1) – Wash and dry the melon. On a cutting board, cut the melon in half. With the help of a spoon, remove all the seeds in the center.
Step 2) – Then cut the melon into slices neither too big nor too small. Typically, a medium melon will yield 8 slices.
Arrange the melon slices on a serving dish.
Step 3) – Then place the prosciutto slices next to or on top of the melon and serve.
Depending on the presentation you want to make (see “How to Serve Prosciutto and Melon” section), you may or may not want to remove the skin from each slice.
You can serve the melon in slices, chunks, or balls. Below are some ideas for serving melon with prosciutto.
WHICH MELON TO CHOOSE
First of all, we have to choose the right melon. It must be fragrant and ripe to the right degree.
This means ripe, but not too ripe. Overripe melons can be used as fruit alone or in a fruit salad.
But for this appetizer, the melon slice must be firm, compact and not release too much juice.
The melon should be COLD from the refrigerator to make the appetizer more palatable.
WHICH PROSCIUTTO TO CHOOSE
When choosing prosciutto, choose a top-quality ham that is thinly sliced.
Depending on your personal taste, there are thicker or thinner hams, with more or less seasoning. This makes them more or less salty and flavorful.
For more information on Italian prosciutto, see the section “The Best Italian Prosciutto” below.
How to Serve Prosciutto and Melon
You can serve Prosciutto and Melon in its simplicity, as in our recipe, or present it in an original and fun way.
Prosciutto and melon are two simple ingredients that, with their beautiful and vibrant colors, always inspire creativity and new ideas on how to serve them on the table.
Let your imagination run wild with a variety of skewers, cubes, balls and salads that will never fail to amaze your guests!
Diced Prosciutto and Melon
Start by cutting a melon in half and scooping out the seeds as described above.
Cut the melon into four pieces, then cut each piece in half. At this point, remove the skin and set aside the top of each wedge. Use a knife to cut the rest of the clove into many cubes.
Now take a slice of prosciutto and cut it in half or four, depending on the size of the melon cubes. Wrap it, place it on the melon and secure it with a toothpick.
Prosciutto and Melon Balls
For a more attractive presentation, cut the fruit in half widthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Then scoop out the flesh with a gelato scoop. Make melon balls and set them aside.
Fill the two empty halves with melon balls, prosciutto rosettes, mozzarella bites and mint leaves.
You now have two beautiful baskets to impress your guests!
Prosciutto and Melon Skewers
Melon and prosciutto skewers are a tasty and inviting appetizer that can also be used for an aperitif. They are very easy to make, but the secret lies not only in the choice of ingredients, but also in the right combinations.
Let’s take prosciutto and melon and combine them in the form of skewers with mozzarella, rocket and tomato and place them on a bed of green salad. It will be a guaranteed success!
Prosciutto and Melon: 3 Tips for a Perfect Result
Undoubtedly, all the presentations described – and there are many more – are very beautiful and aesthetically interesting.
But if, in addition to aesthetics, we are interested in the success of the dish, we need to make a few points:
- The more we cut the melon into small pieces, the more we lose juice and therefore flavor. For this reason, not only is it better to serve the melon whole, but it’s often served with the skin, which is removed only when it’s time to eat the melon.
- We recommend slicing the melon close to the meal and not too far in advance, again to keep the flavor of the melon intact.
- Many chefs advise against putting the prosciutto in contact with the melon long before serving. In fact, the prosciutto in contact with the melon absorbs its juice and becomes mushy and moist. The melon becomes soft and loses the freshness of the freshly cut slice. In Italian restaurants, prosciutto and melon are sliced and served IMMEDIATELY for this very reason.
Therefore, if you are not sure that the dish will be consumed immediately, it is better to serve the prosciutto next to the melon slices and not on top of them.
How to Store Prosciutto and Melon
Prosciutto and melon is one of those recipes that is best eaten immediately. The freshness of the ingredients is the key to success!
If you have leftovers, you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a day.
It’s best to separate the melon and the Parma ham into two different containers. This is to prevent the prosciutto from absorbing too much of the juice released by the melon and becoming mushy (see the tips in the paragraph above: “Prosciutto and melon: 3 tips for a perfect result”).
Prosciutto Crudo: Which are the Best Ones in Italy?
Prosciutto Crudo has always been considered the king of Italian cured meats. Its taste is unique, sweet and salty at the same time.
The processing is long and complex and must follow precise operations and times. Many of Italy’s prosciutti enjoy protection marks such as DOP and IGP, which certify their production and quality.
Among the most famous are Parma ham, San Daniele ham, Tuscan ham and Norcia ham.
Prosciutto Crudo di Parma (Parma Ham)
Prosciutto di Parma DOP, probably the most famous of all. It has a uniform color between pink and red, with pure white in the fatty parts. Prosciutto di Parma has a delicate and sweet taste, low in salt and with a fragrant and distinctive aroma.
By law, it can only be produced in the province of Parma, while the pigs can be raised in a wider area (including Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Molise, Umbria, Tuscany, Marche, Abruzzo and Lazio).
Prosciutto crudo di San Daniele (San Daniele Ham)
Prosciutto di San Daniele DOP comes from pigs born, raised and slaughtered in the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy and Piedmont. Processing takes place in the municipality of San Daniele, Friuli.
It has a characteristic guitar shape. The slice is reddish-pink in the lean part and very white in the fat part, the taste is delicate and the slice is tender. The salt content must not exceed 6.0%.
Prosciutto di Norcia (Norcia Ham)
According to the regulations, Prosciutto di Norcia DOP can only be produced above an altitude of 500 meters in the municipalities of Norcia, Cascia, Preci, Poggiodomo and Monteleone di Spoleto. This is about twice the height of San Daniele (250 meters above sea level) and much higher than Parma (50 meters above sea level).
You can recognize Prosciutto di Norcia by its characteristic pear shape. The slice is tasty but not salty, pink to red in color.
Prosciutto Crudo Toscano (Tuscan Ham)
Prosciutto Toscano DOP is characterized by a deep red color and a delicate taste with a spicy note. It comes from the processing of pigs born, reared and slaughtered in Tuscany or in neighboring regions.
The pigs must be pure-bred or derived from the traditional basic breeds, Large White and Landrace.
What distinguishes Toscano from other prosciutto crudo is the cutting technique of the characteristic “V” shape and the external peppering. The taste is a characteristic feature of Prosciutto Toscano DOP. The salt content is between 6% and 8%.
Characteristics and Varieties of Melon
The melon is a round or ovoid, sweet and aromatic fruit of the Cucurbitaceae family.
There are many varieties.
Melons are grown almost all over the world (especially in China, Turkey, Morocco, the United States, Egypt and India).
In Europe, the leader is Spain, which grows one million tons of melons annually, followed by Italy, thanks to Sicily, Campania, Lazio, Puglia and Emilia-Romagna.
Summer and Winter Melons
The main distinction in melons is between summer and winter melons.
Summer melons have orange flesh and more or less wrinkled skin, depending on the quality. They are available from May to October.
Winter melons are yellow or green with white flesh. They ripen in late summer but can be kept until December.
Retato melons and cantaloupe melons are the varieties we use most in the summer.
Recognizable by their reticulated skin, they can be round or oval in shape. If the exterior is gray-green, with slight grooves, the flesh is juicy, orange. Very fragrant. We also call it the American melon to emphasize the rich production in the United States. The varieties of the Retato melon are numerous.
The cantaloupe melon has an oval shape with orange flesh and a gray-green surface that can be more or less smooth or rough.
Legend has it that some missionaries imported it from Asia and suggested it to Cantalupo (hence the name), now in the province of Rieti, where a papal castle once stood.
Cantalupes include those of the genus Cantalupe Comune (they have juicier, reddish flesh) and Cantalupe Prescott (they have wider ribs and pronounced grooves already on the skin). These are very fragrant early fruits.
In general, for all melon varieties, this wonderful fruit is high in water and low in calories.
In addition to being low in calories (both winter and summer melons tend not to exceed 50 calories per 100 grams), the melon is rich in micronutrients such as vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants, including beta-carotene, especially in the cantaloupe melon.
It has a good amount of fiber, which promotes satiety and regulates the absorption of sugars and fats.
History and Origin of “Prosciutto and Melon”
It seems that the idea of combining prosciutto with melon has very ancient origins.
We have to go back to the second century AD. Galen, the personal physician of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, proposed the theory of the balance of opposites.
According to these theories, body heat was due to an “internal fire” that warmed the limbs.
Consequently, cold and moist foods, which were very welcome in summer, had to be balanced by hot and dry foods, which could mitigate negative health consequences.
Galen believed that in order to stay healthy, the body needed to maintain a balance between the four elements: water, air, earth, and fire.
Melon, a moist, cold food associated with water, was therefore considered perfect in combination with ham, which was hot, dry and associated with fire.
This explains the origin of sweet and sour combinations: cheese with pears, peaches with wine, prosciutto and figs, and even prosciutto and melon.
In 1891, Pellegrino Artusi, a famous Italian gastronome, suggested this very starter for the August menu in his essay “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene” (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Good Food).
He said that it should be served with a generous amount of wine because, as the saying goes, “quando Sol est in leone, Bonum vinum cum popone” (“when sun is in lion, good is wine with melon” – popone in Tuscan dialect).