Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Prosciutto e Melone con Insalata di Rucola

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Prosciutto e melone con insalata rucola is a traditional Italian anti-pasti, i.e. an appetiser before the main course. Given the right ingredients, it just takes a matter of minutes to put together. Despite being a simple spread of only 4 to 5 items, the assembly of flavours are quite incredible. This explains why it was easily one of my favorites-to-order on the menu of any Italian restaurant that offers it. Why eat it at a restaurant when you can always make it at home? Well, read on and you would know why…

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Prosciutto e melone con insalata rucola calls for an assembly of a few simple but premium ingredients. The list is really quite short

prosciutto di Parma, slices of parma ham

melone , rockmelon/cantaloupe

aceto balsamico tradizionale, balsamic vinegar with appropriate aging

rucola, aragula

Parmigiano-Reggiano, parmesan cheese

toasted almond slices (optional)

cherry tomatoes (optional)
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Cut rockmelon into strips and wrap with thinly sliced parma ham

On a plate,gather a handful of baby arugula and shave parmesan cheese over it  followed by halved cherry tomatoes

drizzle balsamic vinegar on the plate and carefully lay the wrapped ham-melon slices over the vinegar streaks.

emulsify EVO and some balsamic vinegar in a bottle by shaking rapidly and drizzle over arugula.

Serve immediately.
What intrigues me about Italian cuisine even til today is how a whole palate of rich and wonderful flavours could be teased out given the simplicity of the stuff used. Having said, the ingredients used has to be of premium quality. Given the cost of the ingredients, it seems to defy all economic sense to prepare this at home. But to do so would allow one to tweak the ingredients and flavours to one’s liking, and for me, it has to be the use of aceto balsamico tradizionale. Having visited gourmet food stores and purveyors both locally and overseas, I often wondered why anyone would pay such exorbitant prices for a tiny bottle of vinegar. I’d always thought the aceto balsamico di modena, being an affordable imitation of the traditional version would have very similar flavours to the true McCoy. Surely they would be similar? Boy was I wrong! I remembered vividly having my first taste of aceto balsamico tradizionale some years back at a food show, as a simple dip with extra virgin olive (EVO) oil and focaccia and it simply swept me off my feet.I remained speechless for a good couple of seconds, eyes wide opened with the “O.M.G! How the f*** did I not know this before!?” look and the Italian product representative was already gleaming from ear to ear with a confident “I know right?! Toldja so!” smile. I do not speak Italian and he spoke only a smattering of simple English intermingled with italian culinary terms which I vaguely understood. But we knew precisely that we are feeling exactly the same thing. The language of food is universal and transcends all barriers. I’d since been a convert. Go for the real stuff whenever possible.
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But then, my first bottle of aceto balsamico tradizionale did not come until much later. The price tag was made me shelf the idea of getting one for the longest time. But when I finally did, it served its purpose gloriously. I’d used it to create the most wonderful salad dressings and vinaigrettes I’d made, together with good EVO. From a herby rosemary and garlic italiano tradizionale concoction, to one an oriental twist of a wafu-ponzu dressing with crushed toasted sesame seeds, yuzu rind and juice, aceto balsamico compliments the flavours really well. Or it is really good as it is, like I’d used in Prosciutto e melone con insalata rucola, with a small amount drizzled over the plate and later a generous splosh of EVO- aceto balsamico emulsifcation over the arugula salad. The aceto balsamico tradizionale I’m using recently is a 12-year aged aceto balsamico from Leonardi Acetaia, who has a tradition of making premium balsamic vinegars for more than 140 years. I like its flavours as it has an edge of acerbity which was more smooth than sharp, with a hint of subtle sweetness towards the end. It is overall rather full-bodied but yet in an un-imposing manner, making it a good vector, lending support to other stronger flavours. But the condiment itself is robust enough to hold volume and be used on its own.
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Once the melon slices are wrapped with ham, the dish must be assembled and served immediately. The salt in the ham would draw out water from the melon via osmotic action causing the fruit to macerate and begin to soften, thus losing that desired crunch. So all must be done in quick successions with the assemblage of the ham and melon slices done last if necessary.

I thought the combination of balsamic vinegar with the traditional Prosciutto e melone worked rather well, especially when it is accompanied with an arugula salad shaved aged parmesan cheese. The flavour and textures drawn from this plate was rather complex, good enough as a light meal on its own really and not just an appetiser. I love the acridity of arugula which paired off wonderfully with the sweetness and tart tones from the balsamic vinegar-EVO emulsification. Intense flavours from the saliferous parma ham and parmesan cheese went surprisingly well with the sugary elements from the melon and cherry tomatoes. Lots of unami-ness in it if you ask me! And of course, the crunch from the greens and fruits is always refreshing as in any salads. Would have been better with a sprinkle of lightly toasted almond slices but I was lazy. Give me parma ham, balsamic vinegar and good cheese and I am a happy boy.
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17 responses

  1. One of my grandmothers loves this! She made it for us once at a brunch, there was no balsamic vinegar but a walnut vinaigrette that went along with it.

    Beautiful photographs!

    May 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      lucky you Amrita! I wish I had a grandmother who enjoys parma ham with melons! I’m sure walnut vinaigrette worked wonderfully as well! Can imagine the nutty aromas from the walnuts. But balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite condiments on the pantry shelves. So i’m indulging here a bit!

      May 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm

  2. It looks very pretty and indeed, buying so many ingredients when only such small amounts are needed is not very economical.
    Invite me over and you can use up more of the ingredients, less wastage,

    May 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      haha yah lor, that’s why i said better to eat in restaurant than to make at home mah…

      no problem, see when you come over and I make for you!

      May 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm

  3. Alan, don’t forget me!!

    May 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      definitely Veronica! backlogging so much food we’d talked about. LOL

      May 4, 2012 at 10:39 pm

  4. i am drooling in front of my keypad….;P

    May 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm

  5. I could not agree with you more. It’s all about the ingredients. Great post.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Yeah man, if the ingredients are fresh and of quality, its half the work done already!

      May 5, 2012 at 9:22 am

  6. Charlie

    Again you have excelled!

    Simple, delicious, and small servings.

    I love it that nothing is too filling, but at the end you are satisfied.

    Living in North America, to go out to eat means a massive salad, a big meal, and a huge

    dessert. Coming home overstuffed or with leftovers.

    Not my idea of a perfect dinner. :~(

    Most also don’t take the time to enjoy and savour their meal, and spend the time talking.

    It’s like an assembly line at times.

    I go the European way :~D

    Thank you for sharing this delicious starter.

    Have a Joyful Day


    May 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Totally agree with you Charlie. I find that sometimes they tend to “supersize” the portions too much and sacrifice quality for quantity. Eating smaller portions of each serving allows us to try a larger variety of stuff. So sometimes less is more! 🙂

      May 5, 2012 at 9:29 am

  7. m&m

    This looks amazingly perfect for lunch today! Looking forward to my trip to Italy next week and this put me in the mood!

    May 5, 2012 at 2:47 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Oh wow!!! You are travelling to Italy? So envious! Hope you have a great trip! Can’t wait to read about it on your blog.

      May 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

  8. this is one of my favorite dishes but also one that gives the most disappointment when you realize the restaurant serves it horribly. i should really make this at home but i’m too lazy to go hunting for good parma ham!

    May 10, 2012 at 10:14 am

  9. Phoebe Smith

    could someone please tell me the price of this either in euros or dollars? thanks 🙂

    August 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      er…. this is my own lunch! NOT FOR SALE! LOL

      August 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm

  10. Pingback: Insalata di Finocchio con Arancia Rossa di Sicilia | travellingfoodies

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