Italian

Do-It-Yourself Nduja to Spice Up Your Charcuterie Board (and Life)

April 10, 2018

Nduja—pronounced en-DOO-ya—is a spicy, spreadable salami. It comes from the Calabria region of Italy, often shows up on olive oily bread, has become increasingly popular over the past decade-plus, and yet rarely appears in a non-Italian article or recipe sans explainer. Maybe next year. Or the year after that.

A little background: In 2009, Julia Moskin at the New York Times described nduja as: “the spicy underground taste that went mass market, making it the Lady Gaga of pork products.” Somewhat ironically, this was right before Lady Gaga wore a meat dress to the VMAs. Of course, that was beef, not pork, and raw, not cured. Anyway, also in 2009, in The Guardian, Tim Hayward declared nduja “the single most exciting ingredient I’ve come across in ages.”

Seven years later, though, headlines like this still appear: “What Is Nduja and Why Is It Suddenly on Every Menu?” Recently, I was wondering the same thing, or almost the same thing: Why is nduja suddenly in every publication?

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In just the past few years, there has been: nduja-smeared chicken wings from Saveur; a very nduja Christmas from The Kitchn; Calabrian carbonara from Food & Wine; and nduja flatbreads from Bon Appétit. You know, just to name a few. And then there’s us!

Just one, teeny, tiny catch: Where do you find nduja? While its popularity has increased its accessibility—if you’re near a well-stocked Italian grocery, you’re probably in luck—nduja is still missing from many, if not most, mainstream supermarkets. As Food52 contributor and nduja enthusiast EmilyC noted:

Italian nduja can’t be imported to the U.S. unless it’s pasteurized, which means you’ll find imported nduja packed in jars, not casings. Artisan producers in the states have their own versions, each with a distinct blend of pork and chiles. An Italian market near me sells nduja from Iowa-based La Quercia; instead of salami, it’s made from finely ground prosciutto and speck.

So, what’s an aspiring nduja fiend to do? It’s simple: Just make your own. Well, almost. You could literally make your own nduja—break out the hog casings and curing salt—but we’re going for less, not more, work here. If nduja is a spicy, spreadable salami, why not just make salami spicy and spreadable?

I call it Almost Nduja. Spread it on bread. Toss it with pasta. Tuck it into an omelet. Turn it into a vinaigrette. Become the nduja you want to see in your supermarket. Here are the components to get you there:

Almost nduja and toast are totally into each other. Photo by Ty Mecham

Soppressata

Soppressata is salami—spicy, like nduja, but instead of being spreadable, it’s dry and hard. You can buy this in a log or sliced at a deli counter. If you go the former route, you can remove the casing, or not; removing yields a slightly smoother end result. If you can’t find soppressata, zero worries: Just replace with whatever salami you can get your hands on, then amp up the Calabrian chiles accordingly.

Crushed Calabrian chiles

Different from Calabrian chile paste—another great ingredient that Giada De Laurentiis told us to keep stocked in our pantry at all times. (Adds to grocery list.) Here, we want oil-packed, finely minced Calabrian chiles, sort of like hoagie spread (is my New Jersey showing?). I found this jar at Whole Foods. If you can only find whole chiles, just mince ’em up! And if you’re thinking, But Emma, I have to buy a whole jar, only to use a couple tablespoons, it’s less, how will you use the rest of the jar, and more, how will you not buy another jar? Start with scrambled eggs or avocado toast.

Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

Disclaimer: These are not traditional to nduja. I add (and love) them in here for a few reasons. One, texture; we’ll drain the tomatoes, but their plump oiliness brings lots of richness and silkiness. Two, flavor; sun-dried tomatoes are rich in umami, a welcome boost for a meaty spread. And three, color; these get us even closer to nduja’s classically crimson hue.

Extra-virgin olive oil

Nduja is super fatty—that’s how it’s so luscious and spreadable. Olive oil helps your food processor take this recipe from soppressata spread to nduja doppelgänger. If you happen to have some pork fat hanging around (admiring you!), you can use an equal amount of that.

Have you ever cooked with nduja before? What did you make? Tell us in the comments below!

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2 Comments

HalfPint April 10, 2018
I get a locally made nduja from Boccalone. For the most part, I have not experimented beyond putting that Bad Boy on some fresh-out-of-the-tandoori naan. For a while, my local farmers market had these 2 favorites side by side and Sundays were glorious.
 
Jessica H. April 15, 2018
I came to comment the same about Boccalone! My first taste of their nduja was a revelation. They are sorely missed now that they've closed but maybe this recipe will ease the pain.