Tonnarelli al Melone

Tonnarelli with Cantaloupe

Several years ago, an inventive young cook named Silvano surprised Venice by opening a restaurant serving neither of the city’s great specialties, seafood and risotto. His first courses were all made with firm, factory pasta, each with an entirely original sauce. One day Silvano surprised everyone again: he sold his interest and disappeared, leaving behind only the memories of his dazzling cooking.

One of his dishes I most admired was spaghetti with melon. Cantaloupe is what he used and what works best. This version is based largely on the recipe he gave me, with minor adjustments of my own.

Tonnarelli are suggested for the same reasons given in the preceding recipe. Any good imported brand of spaghetti, however, will give excellent results.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cups cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed, diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Black pepper in a grinder
  • Tonnarelli made with 3 large eggs and cups flour (preferably hard-wheat flour), as described

Method

  1. Put the butter and oil in a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan and turn on the heat to high. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the melon. Cook the melon for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. The melon must soften, but not dissolve completely; most of the pieces should still be separate.
  2. Add the cream, lemon juice, and tomato paste. Stir and cook at high heat until the cream is reduced to half its original volume.
  3. Add salt, very liberal grindings of pepper, stir once or twice, and remove from the heat.
  4. Drop the pasta into a pot of abundant boiling salted water. The moment the pasta is tender but firm to the bite, drain it, toss immediately with the sauce in a warm serving bowl, and serve at once.

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