Orecchiette with Cantaloupe, Basil, and Crispy Pancetta Recipe

Mix up your summer pasta salad routine with an unexpected sweet and savory twist
Orecchiette with Cantaloupe, Basil, and Crispy Pancetta

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

We’re in the thick of salad season. They’re great for quick-and-easy dinners, lunches on steamy days, or barbecue potlucks and other get-togethers, but the same old recipes are getting, well, old. How about bringing the best of both worlds into one dish? If you think cantaloupe is only for fruit salads, prepare to wake up your taste buds with this combination of sweet, tart, savory, and salty, says Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell, who created this recipe for Real Food. And the orecchiette, translated “little ears,” are tender, small cup-shaped pasta. If you can’t find them, you can substitute medium shells.

Orecchiette with Cantaloupe, Basil, and Crispy Pancetta

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

½ medium cantaloupe (6 cups cubes)
2 small yellow squash, halved and sliced
2 cups fresh basil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1 (3-ounce) package sliced pancetta, slivered
4 ounces aged Asiago cheese

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil to cook the orecchiette.
  2. Cube the cantaloupe, slice the squash, sliver the basil, and place the ingredients in a large bowl. Measure the olive oil and drizzle 1 tablespoon of it into a large sauté pan for cooking the pancetta.
  3. Put the remaining oil in a medium bowl and add the red wine vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  4. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, about 9 minutes, and then drain, rinse well with cool water, drain well, and place in a large bowl.
  5. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the slivered pancetta, stirring as it starts to sizzle. When the pancetta is crisp and browned, scrape the pancetta and oil into the large bowl. Whisk the dressing and pour over the pasta and toss to mix well. Top the pasta with shaved slices of Asiago and serve (see Cook’s Note).

Cook’s Note: To make pretty Asiago shavings, place the cheese on a cutting board and use a traditional handheld vegetable peeler to shave thin sheets of cheese from the block.

Nutrition info (Per Serving): Calories 877 (412 From Fat); Fat 47g (Sat. 14g); Chol 39mg; Sodium 1156mg; Carb 92g; Fiber 6g; Protein 23g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.