This Prosciutto and Pea Pasta Salad is a fun twist on a classic, and it’s an excellent side dish to serve alongside your favorite grilled summer recipes!
Little ears. That’s the English translation of the Italian word ‘orecchiette’. And it’s spot-on. Orecchiette is a type (or really shape) of pasta that originates from the southern Italian region of Apulia. (For geographic reference, Apulia is the “boot” portion of Italy.) Olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes are among the key local ingredients in Apulia. And like most regions in Italy, Apulia also has a traditional pasta. In fact, a yearly festival in the small town of Latiano celebrates orecchiette. A pasta festival in southern Italy? That just earned a spot on my bucket list!
It’s easy to see how this egg-less pasta gets its name, too. After all, the round, concave shape of orecchiette look like little ears. And the shape lends itself to capturing sauces and little vegetables. For this same reason, orecchiette is also an excellent choice for pasta salads. The unique shape of the pasta not only looks fun in a pasta salad, but it helps capture all of the flavor (and peas!). In fact, I almost always keep a box of orecchiette in the pantry during the summer months…because you never know when the urge for pasta salad might hit!
In keeping with the Italian roots of orecchiette, the prosciutto in this Prosciutto and Pea Pasta Salad brings a ton of flavor to the finished dish! Prosciutto is cured ham or wild boar, and it’s typically served as very thin slices. But this Prosciutto and Pea Pasta Salad is different. It uses cubed, cooked prosciutto. To make this pasta salad, I stopped by the deli counter at my local grocery store and asked for 1/4″ slices of prosciutto. (I picked up this trick from my mother-in-law’s Antipasta Salad recipe…another summer staple in our house.) The lady behind the counter at the store gave me a funny look and asked me what I was making. Once I described the pasta salad, she was on board!
At home, I cut the prosciutto into cubes and cooked it in a dry skillet. I actually picked up this idea from a small, Italian deli here in town. They make one of the best pasta salads I’ve ever eaten, and it involves cooked prosciutto. I would never have guessed! Cooked prosciutto is very reminiscent of bacon, but better. (Is there actually anything better than bacon??) In fact, the last time I picked up some of this pasta salad, I got to talking with the guy behind the counter and he suggested making a BLT with cooked prosciutto instead of bacon. *mind blown* That needs to happen sometime soon!
If you’re looking for a fun new pasta salad to serve alongside grilled summer recipes, then this Prosciutto and Pea Pasta Salad deserves a chance to shine! Like all pasta salads, though, this one will taste better if you make it the day before and let it rest overnight in the refrigerator. Enjoy, my friends!