There are things in this food world that just go together. Bread and butter. Peanut butter and jelly. Tomato and basil. Nutella and banana. Cheese and wine. Milk and cookies. I could go on and on, but instead, I’ll leave you with one pairing that is underrated but every bit as deserving of our adoration: prosciutto and melon.
I should clarify that when I say melon I’m pretty exclusively referring to what we call cantaloupe in the US. Muskmelon or honeydew would also work for this classic appetizer pairing, but something like watermelon would not. Years of romance language immersion has left the word melon far more accessible in my brain than cantaloupe.
P.S. I actually just googled “origins of the word cantaloupe” to see which language English takes it from, and cantaloupe actually does come from French or Italian! I can tell you though, I’ve only ever heard cantaloupe on menus in either country described as melon or melone.
Ironically, I first ate prosciutto with melon not in France or Italy but in Spain. One of the things I actually miss a lot about eating out in Europe is the meal structure of appetizer + first plate + second plate. When you’re traveling throughout Europe you’ll see fixed menus everywhere structured this way, where you can pick from a few different options in each category to customize a meal.
I remember so vividly being presented with menus like this when I first arrived in Spain and being so confused as to how to approach them. I also spoke very little Spanish and didn’t appreciate food in the same way, so these menus were confusing to me.
At the beginning of my time in Spain, we were in two cities on the Northern Atlantic coast – Santander and Comillas, and it was there that I first saw prosciutto with melon on a menu (it was probably listed on the menu as jamón ibérico, but the general concept is the same). I ordered it and was blown away by the flavor combination.
Here were two things I had readily available back home that I had never thought to serve together in my life. And all throughout the Mediterranean, the same flavor pattern repeats – cured ham and sweet melon. It’s simple but hits all the right notes.
So now, prosciutto with melon is a summer staple in our house. My husband gets excited and repeatedly says melon in a French accent, poking fun at my inability to recall the word cantaloupe. It is the EASIEST appetizer and everyone you serve it to will be hooked.
A quick google search will reveal that you can get fancy with your ham and melon combination. I’m kind of against that. This is one of those things that is best left uncomplicated. Just make sure your melon is super ripe so it’s extra sweet and your prosciutto (or speck or jamón ibérico) is good quality.
Keep the serving simple for this prosciutto and melon. Some good bread, fresh mozzarella and olive oil alongside go great. A really light sprinkling of mint on top is good, but sometimes I like it unadulterated too. Play around with what you like!
I like to cut my melon in half moons and then wrap one half of one slice of prosciutto around the melon. Any more prosciutto than that and it becomes overwhelming.
A note on serving: prosciutto with melon is best served soon after assembly. If you refrigerate the melon already wrapped in prosciutto, the meat will become soggy. It will still taste fine, but you’ll lose some important texture there.
Are there any other iconic flavor combinations you can’t live without? Something so simple it feels silly to write a recipe for it? Few dishes can sustain themselves on two components alone, and if you have one, I wanna know about it!
Prosciutto with Melon
A simple and easy appetizer pairs savory prosciutto with ripe melon for a sweet and salty combination that is insanely delicious!
- 6 oz thinly sliced prosciutto 10-12 slices in total
- 1 medium cantaloupe extra ripe, cut into half moons
- Bread, mozzarella, and/or mint to serve optional
Cut the cantaloupe in half lengthwise (though the top where the stem was). Scoop out the seeds and cut each half into wedges. Cut the rind off the wedges so they are easily eaten
Remove one piece of prosciutto from the package and cut in half lengthwise. Remove excess fat from the sides if there is any.
Wrap one half of the slice of prosciutto around one of the cantaloupe wedges and place on a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining slices of prosciutto and cantaloupe
Serve with bread, fresh mozzarella and mint