The cantaloupes at the Market last week smelled heavenly and made me hungry for some sweet melony flavors. This delicious pasta salad satisfies that craving.

Not only does it have that melony goodness, it also gets a hit of saltiness from pancetta (or substitute crumbled bacon) and ricotta or feta (maybe goat-cheese feta?), a little sharpness from scallion and red pepper flakes, and freshness from chopped mint.

Pasta Salad with Melon, Pancetta, and Ricotta Salata

recipe from Epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon)
  • 4 ounces orecchiette (ear-shaped pasta)
  • Salt
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups 1x1x1/4″ pieces peeled melon (any variety)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint, divided
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ounce ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), shaved, or crumbled feta

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Arrange pancetta in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until brown and crisp, 20-25 minutes. (Alternatively, place pancetta on folded layers of paper towels on a microwave-proof plate and microwave on high until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.) Let pancetta stand until cool enough to handle, then break into bite-size pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a medium pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta; run under cold water to cool. Drain and set aside.
  3. Whisk oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Add half of pancetta, cooked pasta, melon, half of 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 and mint over. Garnish with shaved ricotta salata. Makes 4 servings.

This is an ideal pasta salad for picnics or backyard barbecues. You can use any type of small pasta you like if you can’t find orrechiette. Shells are always good as are penne. And I highly recommend Circle City Smoke’s smoked peppercorns for the fresh-ground black pepper. They’ll give your salad a nice smoky hint that will contrast nicely with the flavor profile of the other ingredients.

See our recipe archive for more ways to use marvelous melons in season.