Cantaloupe pasta salad? No, I didn’t type that in the dark. It was food adventure day! When I saw a picture of this salad and read the recipe on the Tablespoon site, I had to try it just for fun. I adore cantaloupe, it’s my favorite fruit. And who doesn’t like pasta? Prosciutto? I’ve never bought it but I like ham and all the variations. I thought the salad had a lot of promise.
The recipe calls for gemelli pasta, and that was not easy to find here up North. I shopped all over locally but would probably have had better luck in a Big City. I settled for rotini. I cooked it in boiling salted water until it was al dente, then drained and gave it a quick rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking.
I bought a cantaloupe several days ago and let it further ripen on the counter. Years ago I read a tip: insert your thumbnail into the indented spot where the vine had been attached to the melon, then sniff. If it smells like it’s ripe and ready to eat, it’s a keeper. I spend a lot of time sniffing melons (don’t say it) and get many funny looks from other shoppers. But it’s annoying to buy a melon that is under or over ripe at the prices we have to pay to enjoy cantaloupe here on the prairie.
Cutting the cantaloupe was a challenge. When you look at the melon, there isn’t anything straight to it! It’s all curves and roundness! I started by cutting the melon in half and scooping out the inside icky parts and discarding them. Then I cut each half into thin slices and cut off the peel on each slice with a paring knife. Finally I could cut the melon into 2” long matchsticks and put them into a bowl. I’m not sure if there was an easier way to get straight sticks, I didn’t find one! A lot of odd-shaped bits lost their lives in the process. And were promptly eaten.
Next I measured dried marjoram into a small bowl. Fresh marjoram was another item that was not to be found in our town. My P.S. scoured the grocery stores and even a couple of health food stores with no luck. He finally brought me a little baggie of dried marjoram he’d bought in bulk and told me to improvise. I added the red wine vinegar and olive oil to the marjoram bowl and let it sit for a few minutes to let it rehydrate. It would have to do.
I chopped the prosciutto and added it to the bowl. I must tell you the story of my fight with the prosciutto some time. It’s quite a tale! I’ll just say it was easier said than done.
I stirred the pasta salad ingredients well and tasted for seasoning. The whole pasta dish was so dry I thought I’d done something wrong. There wasn’t nearly enough vinaigrette to even cover the pasta even lightly. I mixed up a second batch of the vinaigrette, tossed it all together, and was pleased. For one pound of pasta, the vinaigrette definitely must be doubled to get any flavor out of the dish!
The marjoram in the recipe is probably the link that makes the ingredients all work so well together. The vinegar, oil and marjoram make a kind of vinaigrette that highlights the sweetness of the melon and the saltiness of the prosciutto. This pasta salad really is serious about flavor. It is refreshing in a fruity way, but has the comfort level of a pasta salad as well.
The salad would be nice as a lunch meal, but it is also good as a side dish to go along with something from the grill. I’m pleased I took a chance on what was a very different kind of salad. We love cantaloupe and it was a very interesting way to eat it. This is best made and eaten in the same day, but was fairly fresh still the next day.
I wondered if a honey mustard dressing might be a better flavor profile, since the original vinaigrette recipe had been too little. Maybe a spicier dressing would perk it up a bit, but then you take the risk of losing the cantaloupe flavor, which is so mild it can easily be lost. I may make it again and change the dressing, just for the fun of it. My P.S. said we should try some thinly sliced scallions for a little extra flavor.
We enjoyed the salad with our grilled franks, but since the combination of ingredients all added up to a higher priced pasta salad than usual, it didn’t really wow us with equally higher priced flavors. You might want to try this for yourself and see what you think! The vinaigrette ingredients are already doubled, which worked best for my salad.
Cantaloupe Prosciutto and Marjoram Pasta Salad
1 pound gemelli pasta (I used rotini)
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram; chopped (I used 2 tablespoons of dried)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto
1 teaspoon salt; or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to directions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
While the pasta cooks, cut the cantaloupe into matchsticks similar to the shape of the pasta.
Chop or tear the prosciutto into smaller pieces.
Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, marjoram, salt and pepper together in a bowl.
Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate until served.