If you like spice, you’ll love Nduja
If you have never eaten Nduja before and you like spicy meat dishes, then you have to find a way to get your hands on some! My Sicillian husband introduced me to it and I have been hooked ever since!
Nduja is a soft, spicy, spreadable salami made with pork meat (typically from the throat, underbelly, head and shoulder), a bit of fat, salt and a lot of peperoncino (Italian red chilli pepper). It is considered one of the most well-known, if not the most famous, of typical Calabrian foods. In fact in Calabria there is a popular annual Nduja festival in the small village of Spilinga where this salami originates. The name Nduja comes from the french word ‘andouille’, which means sausage.
In general, Nduja is really quite spicy. However, a less spicy version can apparently sometimes be found. I’ve never looked for it as we love ours as spicy as it gets! Calabrians believe that it is an aphrodisiac because of all of the chilli pepper it contains. Whether that is true or not, I can’t say but it has a unique flavour and certainly tastes wonderful. And let’s not forget that chilli peppers are good for your health and your heart!
How it’s made!
Nduja is made by grinding the pork meat and then kneading it together with salt and Calabrian pepperoncino (chili pepper). This mixture is then made into a sausage by piping it into natural casings of pork intestinal lining. The sausage is then smoked slightly and allowed to rest and season for a number of months.
Unlike typical salami, Nduja is made to a very soft, spreadable consistency, making it completely different from other salamis. The quality of the peperoncino used is extremely important to the flavour. In Calabria, it is rare to find it made with lower quality chilli peppers. So, if you get the chance to buy some, make sure it’s been made in Calabria, where peperoncino is not only an ingredient, but a symbol of the region’s culture, traditions and history.
Happy Calabrian pigs!
The quality of pork meat is also important. In Calabria most pig farms are quite small and the pigs (usually Black Calabrian pigs) are often allowed to roam and forage in the woods. They feed on acorns, chestnuts, wild marjoram and spearmint as well as roots and vegetables. They are usually at least 2 years old when slaughtered, so they are allowed to grow at a natural rate and the young stay with their mothers. Needless to say rearing pigs in this way results in not only happier pigs but high quality tasty meat and is probably why so many of Calabria’s pork products, including Nduja, are so good!
Not just on pasta!
Calabrians eat Nduja mostly as a dip or spread with bread, in frittata, on pizza or melted into a tomato based pasta sauce (recipe below). However, it has become very trendy outside of Italy and many well-known chefs are using it to give an extra kick to other dishes. For readers in the UK, I have read that Waitrose stock Nduja from Calabria and apparently there are producers in other countries, such as USA, but I have no idea of the quality.
Nduja is typically eaten with short pasta such as maccheroni, penne, fusilli etc or spaghetti. The recipe below can be used with any of these types of pasta. I do hope you’ll get to try it out. Like many Italian pasta recipes this is simple to make and requires very few ingredients but the taste will have you and your guests coming back for seconds. I promise you!
- 100grms Nduja soft salami
- 400 grms Pasta (you can use short pasta such as maccheroni or penne, or spaghetti)
- I large red Tropea onion, peeled and chopped
- 400 grms Tomato pulp or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes (datterini are good)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese.
- Salt and pepper.
- Put a pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
- Remove the Nduja from the skin, put it in a bowl and mash it with a fork to soften it.
- Heat some extra virgin olive oil In a non-stick skillet
- Add the onion and cook over a low heat for a few minutes.
- When the onion is translucent add the Nduja in small pieces. (The amount you use depends on how spicy you want the dish. Start with 100grms and see how you go)
- Leave the Nduja for two minutes on a low heat so it melts. Add a little hot water to make it more liquidy if necessary.
- Add the tomato pulp/peeled tomatoes.
- Turn up the heat for 2 minutes until the water from the tomatoes evaporates.
- Cook for another 10-15 minutes over medium heat, so that the sauce thickens and reduces a little.
- Season with salt and pepper as required.
- Cook the pasta "al dente" and then drain it and toss it in the pan with the sauce and mix everything together well.
- Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
- Buon Appetito!
- Nduja can be bought as a whole 'sausage' or in jars. We usually buy the sausage here in Italy but if it comes from Calabria I would assume the Nduja is good from a jar too.
- Nduja is typically eaten with short pasta such as maccheroni, penne, fusilli etc or spaghetti. This recipe can be used with any of these types of pasta