The region of Calabria, in the toe of Italy’s boot, is famous for many foods—from produce to seafood to the local hearty red wine. There is also the cipolla rossa di Tropea,the prized red onion of the east coast of the region, and an ice cream dessert, the tartufo, that I featured in a pictorial post of August 31, 2017. Recently Jacopo Giacopuzzi, the Veronese – turned – Santa Barbarian pianist, introduced me to ‘nduja (pronounced in Calabrian as DOOJ-ah).
‘Nduja is a spicy, spreadable pork salami from Calabria, which is made from parts of the pig, such as the shoulder, belly and head. (The jowls are used for guanciale.) Spices and roasted hot red peppers give it its characteristic red color and fiery taste. Meat, fat, and peppers are ground finely to become a paste and then put into orba, a traditional casing, and smoked with wood from olive and locust trees. It is then aged briefly and can last for over a year. As with other food dishes, salami are often the result of something delicious created from leftovers.
The origins of ‘nduja are uncertain. It could be from Medieval times. It could be Spanish, not only because of the use of chilies, but also because of the similarity to the Spanish cured sausage, sobrasada. The name is probably a derivative of the French andouille. When the French fought the Spanish in southern Italy in the early 19thcentury, they may have helped to develop it then.
Originally it was used only as an accompaniment to vegetables, ripe cheese, or on slices of bread. Today it is showing up everywhere: in pasta dishes, on pizza, even stuffed in squid. It now has a DOP (denominazione d’origine protetta)designation, which ensures that products are locally grown and packaged. In the last few years there has been an increased demand across Europe for ‘nduja. In Britain it is even showing up on restaurant menus and on supermarket shelves, like those of Marks and Spencer. And thanks to places like Eataly in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, it is also coming to the United States.