Do you ever feel like you should have been born in a different country? I feel like that all of the time. My maiden name is Roman, I tan well, I like wine and Italian food, I’m known to be loud, and I talk with my hands…you’d think I was Italian! Sadly, no. While I am proud of my heritage, sometimes I wish I were Italian!
That is the beauty of wine and food. They allow you to experience another country’s culture. If you enjoy traveling and exploring other cultures, but have the budget of a staycation, wine and food are a great second option. While I have had the privilege of traveling to Italy a few times, I am not able to do so as often as I’d like. When I am feeling antsy to get back to Italy, I try to immerse myself in Italian cuisine, so that I may at least live vicariously through the food.
One of my most favorite Italian meals is not pasta or pizza. It’s not chicken parmesan, or lasagna, or all of the other popular Italian dishes that you see on Italian restaurant menus. Instead, it is a rather simple appetizer, one often glanced over; Prosciutto e Melone.
It only takes two ingredients to make this unassuming dish into a delicious delicacy. They are cantaloupe and prosciutto. Often, this dish is served with an Italian cheese, like burrata (mozzarella) or parmesan, and/or arugula. A balsamic glaze can sometimes be sprinkled on top as well. Yes, it may seem simple, but when the ingredients are fresh and authentic, all of the flavors work so well together and bring out all of the flavors of your taste buds. The arugula brings bitterness. The prosciutto brings salt. The cheese brings umami/earthiness (read more about umami and what it is here). Cantaloupe provides a sweetness, and the balsamic glaze brings out a touch of sourness. While usually an appetizer, this dish can easily be a meal if you add a little more of everything.
Paired with an Italian wine, this is my idea of a perfect meal. You can’t go wrong with which wine you pair this meal with, as I’m usually so happy to be pretending to be in Italy, that whichever wine I use will be equally as enjoyable. Sometimes it’s a Pinot Grigio, sometimes a Prosecco, sometimes a Super Tuscan. Tonight, it was a bottle of Bolla Chianti. I bought it at a grocery store for under $10. Italian wine does not need to be expensive to be enjoyable!
Chianti is a red blend from Tuscany. The primary grape is Sangiovese, with a mix of other grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah. Chianti is aged for various amounts of time, depending on the quality, and can produce wines that taste anywhere from fruit forward to spicy and tart. It is known as a wine that can go basically with anything, Italian or not, due to the fact that it has both the fruity and spicy flavors. The one that I drank tonight had notes of dried flowers and cherry on the nose and red fruits on the palate. A touch of oak (maybe cedar?) was in the finish. To me, this wine was more fruit forward, which is just what I wanted to go with the Prosciutto e Melone.
With a meal full of fresh ingredients and an authentic wine to go with it, this meal was a real treat. Made in under 5 minutes, it is a quick and easy weeknight meal. Had it not been so humid outside, I would have savored it on the balcony, listening to some Vivaldi or Puccini. However, Mother Nature seems to think that it is still summer, so I enjoyed the meal on the couch, in the AC, watching episode 1, season 3 of Poldark. Either way, I am content. Though, I’d rather be in Tuscany. 5 grapes
Wine: Bolla 2015 Chianti (Harris Teeter, $<10)