OK I want you to promise me right now, before reading another word, that you will keep an open mind while reading this post. I told a few friends about this dish, and to be honest I was a little surprised at the vehemence of their refusal to even contemplate that it might be good. Call me a sucker, but I believed Giuliano Hazan when he said that people often could not guess what the mystery ingredient even was. My faith was rewarded, too, because folks I despise raw cantaloupe. I even hate the smell of it. But Hazan is right–cooked cantaloupe in a savory sauce bears no resemblance to the raw fruit. And it makes an amazing bacon infused sauce for pasta.
What it really comes down to is: do I ever steer you wrong?
In all seriousness, the cantaloupe cooks down into something a little sweet but also savory. I enouraged it to turn into a sauce by also smashing it with a potato masher (I do not really care for the texture of melon either). I boosted the unami (because while I trusted Giuliano Hazan I guess you might say my trust only extends so far) with tomatoes, cream, bacon, garlic and shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The dish was rich, creamy and delicious. I found the inspiration for the sauce in Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta: 100 Quick and Easy Recipes. As far as I am concerned this is a perfect summer pasta.
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- 8 slices bacon (I used peppered, but you do not need to)
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 T dry white wine
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 whole cantaloupe peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pot or skillet over medium heat (I used a deep-sided sauté pan, but it was 14 inches across--if you do not have one this large you will be better off with a Dutch oven type pot). Add the bacon and cook until crisp, moving around to prevent burning.
Remove the bacon to a plate covered with a paper towel and let cool. When it is cool enough, crumble it and set aside.
Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat and oil. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and the white wine. Scrape up the yummy bacon bits which have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook the onions, tossing occasionally, until they are golden and caramelizing, about 10-15 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue to stir and cook, another 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chopped cantaloupe. Bring to a brisk simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the cantaloupe starts to break down. I used a potato masher to encourage the cantaloupe to break down into a sauce, because I did not want large chunks of cantaloupe. Allow for at least 25 minutes to cook the cantaloupe.
Add the cream and 3/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir it into the sauce. Let simmer for a minute or 2 to meld the flavors. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve garnished with more grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and the crumbled bacon. A parsley garnish looks great (which is why I used it) but we actually decided we preferred it without, so if you choose to use it, just sprinkle a little over the top.