The Best Pasta Salad OF YOUR LIFE

 P  You’re about to gain the knowledge you will need to create…the best pasta salad of your life.  (Not exaggerating.)  But first, some musings on locally and globally inspired food…

As a part time traveler (and full time foodie), I spend hour after hour trying to recreate authentic dishes I discover abroad.  I also seek recipes for cuisine I haven’t had the pleasure of eating yet…as an attempt to experience a part of new culture (and perhaps inspire a trip…dangerous.)  Of course I spend quite a bit of time honoring the local foods I have in my backyard, which, in California, leaves me with a lot of fresh produce to experiment with.  Occasionally, I like to cook something just because it sounds good or reminds me of a place…and therefore, I end up with recipes that are simply inspired by my travels (and yes, somewhat influenced by my cravings.)

Pasta salad, outside of the mayonnaise-y macaroni salad that we can firmly attribute to America, doesn’t seem to have firm roots in any one culture.  (Anyone disagree?)  Typically served chilled, and in some sort of vinaigrette, pasta salads are one of my favorite canvases to play with.  It’s as simple as picking up some fresh pasta from your farmers market or other source, and adding ingredients that you believe will work together to create the flavor you’re going for.  Pasta, whether hot or cold, has that potential to serve as the plain vessel for all types of flavor bursting from its neighboring ingredients.

It’s true that when I’m really searching for ideas, and perhaps not working with a specific inspiration in mind, I will turn to an established recipe and twist it to fit my own liking.  Rarely do I follow a recipe these days and not want to change a thing about it!  This Melon and Pancetta Pasta Salad began with the craving of an Italian inspired combination of ‘Prosciutto e Melone’ and from there includes many of the things I would add to put my own twist on this classic pair.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, this is one of those recipes that comes along only so often—begging you to make it one night, and finding you’re ready to make it for dinner the next night as well.  >>

Note: When presenting a recipe, I like to photograph all the ingredients–usually in their raw form–a la Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc book 😉 — so that you’re able to get a visual of what you’re going to need before you begin cooking.

 

Pancetta and Melon Pasta Salad

Here's What You'll Need

  • 4 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta) or fresh fusilli from your local pasta guy/gal
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon) 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups peeled melon balls (I like either honeydew or cantaloupe or, both! And like to use a melon baller here.)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, divided
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 ounce ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), shaved or shredded

Total Kitchen Time: 25-30 minutes

To get going, crisp the pancetta in your oven by placing slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baking from 20 minutes at 400°. While this cooks, you can coarsely chop the mint and scallions. You’ll also want to cube your melon or use a melon baller to create bite-sized pieces.

Next, cook your pasta in boiling water until al dente. Rinse the pasta in cold water to cool it.  Drain and set aside.

Whisk oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Add half of pancetta, cooked pasta, melon, mint, scallion, and red pepper flakes. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining pancetta over. Garnish with ricotta salata and a few mint sprigs. 

The freshness of the mint and melon with the salty crunch and mild flavor punch of the pancetta pieces and the cheese…oooh! It’s fairly easy to make and IT’S THAT GOOD.  If you tried it and liked it, let me know!


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2 Comments

  1. I am bookmarking this recipe! It looks exactly like something I would love– your descriptions are making me want to run out and get the ingredients.

    • Kristin, it’s a winner! Funny timing, I’m actually making it today to serve at my family’s BBQ. It’s a classic! Let me know if you make it!

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