In Summer in Italy, Melons Are Appetizer, Dessert & All-Purpose Snack

August  9, 2016

Melons are a summertime staple in Italy. You'll find them piled on the backs of trucks in makeshift side-of-the-road fruit stalls and piled high in crates in the supermarket, where they are practically given away at this time of year. You'll see them on trattoria menus as dessert, which simply means a huge slice—often cut lengthways—of watermelon to be eaten with a knife and fork after a meal.

As delightful as melons and watermelons are on their own, here are some other ideas for making the most of this refreshing summer fruit, the Italian way:

Cantaloupe and canary melons. Photo by Emiko Davies

Melone, or cantaloupe, is a favorite antipasto in Tuscany when draped with slices of melt-in-the-mouth prosciutto. The pairing of salty cured ham and sweet, juicy melon is a winner that can easily translate into similar combinations: Try honeydew melon and smoked salmon, or watermelon in a salad with a bitey, salty, creamy cheese like gorgonzola.

Canary melon jam. Photo by Emiko Davies

And have you ever heard of meloncello? That's right, a liqueur made with cantaloupe melon in the style of limoncello. Melons and watermelons are also often turned into granita (Alice Medrich spikes her watermelon granita with Campari) or sorbet that are ideal for cooling down with on hot days.

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Also known as anguria or cocomero, watermelon is most commonly eaten fresh, in generous portions. But in Sicily it is also made into a delicious, three-ingredient pudding called gelo di anguria, which can also be turned into a watermelon tart by simply spooning the pudding mixture into a shortcrust pastry base and baking.

Melon jam tart. Photo by Emiko Davies

There is also melone giallo, or canary melon, named in both languages for its unbelievably bright yellow rind. Inside, it has pale, sweet flesh, similar in taste to honeydew melon but with slightly more crunch, a little like its relative, the cucumber. In Sicily, it's made into jam, a good one for spooning into shortcrust pastry and baking into a rustic crostata. A pale, slightly golden color, reminiscent of pears and honey-sweet, it lends itself well to pairing with spices—try vanilla, ginger, star anise, cloves, or cardamom.

Emiko, a.k.a. Emiko Davies, is a food writer and cookbook author living in Tuscany, where she writes about (and eats!) regional Italian foods. You can read more of her writing on her blog.

Here are some more wonderful ideas for eating melons. What are your favorite melon recipes? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Giulia Stefania Porcari
    Giulia Stefania Porcari
  • Merrill Stubbs
    Merrill Stubbs
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.


Giulia S. August 10, 2016
Thanks for the jam recipe, Emiko! Canary melons are also amazing raw with just a pinch of salt and plenty of lemon juice.
Merrill S. August 9, 2016
Melon jam sounds like something I need to try making -- very soon!