Nduja, Italy’s Amazing Spreadable Salami

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Who ever invented spreadable food of any sort should be commended.     Think of your favorite food item, make it spreadable on toast, and you get a wham bam snack.   I love chocolate, so when I found spreadable chocolate in the form of Nutella, oh man I was in heaven.   I grew up spreading Braunschweiger or chicken liver pate onto rye toast and that was good.     But when I read recently about a spreadable salami called nduja, I was enraptured and had to learn more.

Nduja, pronounced en-doo-ya, is a spicy spreadable pork sausage from the southern Calabrian region of Italy, specifically, the small town of Spilinga and its environs.   Calabria is the toe of Italy’s boot.

Nduja is like the Italian form of goetta. It’s a slaughter sausage. After you slay the family pig and take the good parts out for prosciutto, soppresatta, and pancetta, you use the leftover parts to make nduja.

It’s made of some good parts of the pig – the shoulder and belly; and some offputting parts of the pig – the jowl, tripe, skin, and fatback. It’s mixed with roasted hot Calabrian red peppers, which gives it the fiery taste, and maybe takes away some of the minerally flavor of the offputting pig parts.

It’s a take on salami, also loosely based on the French andouille sausage.  Although its origins are fuzzy, most believe it was a poor man’s version of andouille sausage – imparting the same flavor without the long aging process.   Andouille arrived in the area 1806 when Napoleon conquered Naples in the North.

Residents of the town of Spilinga, made their version with pork fat, ground lung, kidneys and other odd bits, and spiced it with their local fiery chilis.   The sausage was then smoked, aged, or both.

In Italy nduja is mainly served with slices of bread or with ripe cheese, like ricotta or burrata. In Calabria, chefs melt it onto pizza.   But, it’s unique flavor makes it suitable for a variety of dishes besides pizza and bruschetta.   In a hot pan it melts into a piquant oil that adds complexity and fire to all sorts of savory foods. It can be added to pasta sauces. It can be made into a salad vinegrette.   It can also be brushed onto grilled, roasted or seared meats before serving. And it can also be served with scrambled eggs.

American chefs have layered it into grilled cheese or spread it onto a hamburger.   A New York chef has made a njuda and scallion hash as a garnish for a hearty broccholini soup.   Other chefs have used it to fire-up Hollondaise sauce used for eggs benedict or added a spoonful into crab cakes.   Some chefs even suggest using it with shellfish like clams and linguini dishes.

Salumeria Biellese in New York has been making it since 1925 and spices their version with cayenne and smoky Aleppo peppers.  There are a few places online where it can be purchased – www.ndujaartisans.com or at zingermans.com under the brand La Quercia.   The American made versions tend to be less spicy than the Calabrian versions, and they hopefully use better quality cuts of meat.

I am now on the nduja bandwagon and intend to look for it at Whole Foods or Jungle Jim’s and add it to my breakfast egg repertoire.

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