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RECIPE: Melon & Prosciutto Pasta Salad

Melon and prosciutto is a classic Italian appetizer. Pasta salad, on the other hand, is an American creation.

This recipe, from Pasta Fits, combines the two. We served it this weekend, and it was a hit.

Pasta Fits, a website of the National Pasta Organization, promotes the enjoyment of pasta in healthy recipes.

“When these simple flavors are tossed with pasta and spinach, they make a delicious, quick and portable lunch or side dish. Double the recipe for a tasty party appetizer that will feed a crowd.”

This recipe uses gemelli, a delicate cut that looks great in the salad (of course, you can substitute shapes of choice). Total prep time for the recipe is 20 minutes.

Gemelli (juh-MELL-lee), meaning “twins,” are simply two short strands of round pasta that are twisted together. In addition to their charming appearance, they hold the sauce while retaining an al dente texture.

For entrées, side dishes, baked dishes and pasta salads, they pair well with light to moderately-thick tomato sauces and cream sauces.

Check out the different types of pasta in our Pasta Glossary.
Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 ounces gemelli
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 small honeydew melon (12 ounces)
  • 1/2 small cantaloupe (12 ounces)
  • 12 bocconcini (3 ounces)
  • 3 slices torn prosciutto (1.5 ounces)
  • 4 cups baby spinach (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves

    1. COOK the gemelli according to package directions. Drain and let cool completely. Meanwhile…

    2. WHISK together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Set aside.

    3. SCOOP out 12 small balls of each melon, using melon baller. Add the melon balls, bocconcini and prosciutto to the cooled pasta. Add the dressing and toss well to combine. Stir in the spinach and basil. Chill or serve at room temperature.

    Tip: For a simple variation, substitute crumbled feta cheese for bocconcini and mint for basil.

    According to La Cucina Italiana, the pairing of cured ham and melon can be traced back to the second century C.E., to a physician named named Galeno (anglicized as Galen and better known as Galen of Pergamon).

      Melon & Prosciutto Pasta Salad

    [1] A popular appetizer (melon and prosciutto) fuses with a popular summer main course (pasta salad) (photo courtesy Pasta Fits).


    [2] Bocconcini are bite-size mozzarella balls. Another favorite use is on appetizer skewers. Here are the different sizes of mozzarella (photo courtesy Bel Gioioso).

    Gemelli Pasta Barilla
    [3] You can find gemelli at supermarkets and specialty stores. If you can’t find it, substitute cavatelli or fusilli (photo courtesy Barilla).

    Galeno was a Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher of the Roman Empire. Considered the most accomplished of all medical researchers of antiquity, Galen lectured on anatomy, neurology, pathology, pharmacology and physiology, as well as philosophy and logic.

    Galeno’s theory was that every human was made up of four qualities: warm, cold, dry and juicy. These human attributes correspond to the four elements of the universe: fire, air, earth and water.

    To avoid illness—at the least, indigestion, plus more serious ailments—Galeno proclaimed that people’s diets needed to be perfectly balanced among the four elements. Thus, if you ate something juicy (melon), you had to eat something dry to balance it (cured meats, like prosciutto [which is cured ham]).

    Melon was cold, and the the salty cured meat was considered “hot.”

    A perfect balance, the combination of cured ham and melon has been popular ever since.

    Here’s the history of pasta.

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