bocconcini in parma ham

22 February 2010

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This is a lovely little recipe. In fact ‘recipe’ might be stretching it – it’s more of a method. I can’t remember how or when I came up with this creation; possibly I once ate something similar in a restaurant or read something that sparked an idea. Who knows when inspiration will strike? Anyhow, it’s a dream if you’re catering for a large party because you can do all the preparation in advance and then just bung the baking trays in the oven for a quick blast at the last minute.

Bocconcini is Italian for ‘mouthful’, and in this case it refers to those squishy little nuggets of fresh mozzarella that usually come packed in water or whey. Sounds so much more sophisticated that ‘mini mozzarella balls’ – but that’s essentially what they are.

Parma ham, or prosciutto di Parma, is a type of dry-cured, uncooked ham that is usually served thinly sliced. It is delicious with melon, figs or lightly steamed asparagus on a summer’s day, or greedily stuffed into the mouth (at any time) with a chunk of parmesan – which makes perfect sense since both foods are from the same region of Italy, and the whey resulting from the cheese-making process was traditionally fed to the pigs from which the ham was produced. Prolonged cooking will toughen it, but it works well here, where it forms the ideal wrapping for the mozzarella as well as being a brilliant taste-pairing.

These will disappear in minutes, if not seconds, so my advice is to make plenty. Depending on how much other food you’re providing, it’s probably sensible to allow 2 per person – however it would be realistic, and simply more generous, to allow 4. Nothing worse than being served some delectable little bite at a party only to find that as soon as the food has been offered round once, you’ve had your lot.

Bocconcini in Parma Ham

bocconcini + the same number of slices of parma ham

Drain the bocconcini and discard the water. Get a little production line going and wrap each ball of mozzarella in one slice of ham; this can be a little frustrating at first as the ham slices come apart very easily because they’re so thin, but persevere and you will soon have your own foolproof method. They don’t have to be too neat, just make sure the cheese is fully covered. Place the balls on a baking tray that has been lined with foil.

Heat oven to around 200ºC. About 10 minutes before you want to serve them, put the baking tray in the oven. Heat through, until the ham is hot and the cheese is starting to melt (but not quite oozing out of the little parcels), about 8 minutes. And that’s it.

It would be prudent to supply cocktail sticks when serving these, or at the very least furnish each guest with a napkin if you want to avoid any greasy fingerprints appearing on your upholstery…

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