'Nduja is a traditionally prepared paste of porkfat, ground offal, chilli peppers and salt.
Salivating stuff, huh?
While I admit that this, on paper, doesn't sound that good, it really is.
Native to the Southern Italian region of Calabria, 'nduja is ground fat and meat (nowadays) that is well seasoned with crushed, dried peppers and salt. The resulting rustic and highly spiced paste is often stuffed into a casing just like salami. It was a good way to preserve the fat, if you were lucky enough to have a pig to slaughter or access to its offal. Probably the earliest form of Calabrese convenience food, this could easily be rendered down in a saute pan with diced onions, garlic, and either a few fresh tomatoes or a small jar of conserva, then simply tossed with pasta.
Imagine our surprise when on the plane from Wellington last May, reading about pasta 'nduja in the pages of Australian Gourmet Traveller! Calabrese-born Salvatore Pepe of the Cibo Espresso franchise had contributed his version for their Masterclass Classic Cucina article.
These days, as Pepe also points out, better cuts are used and it can be less spiced and salted as it can be refrigerated if required. While the newfound fame of what was once considered peasant food ('nduja, pasta con cece, fagiolini..etc.) hasn't changed it's appearance on our table, it is amusing to point out to my suocero who has never imagined eating these dishes anywhere else but a casa.
Pasta 'nduja - Sangiorgese style
Recipe makes sauce for 1 pound of dry pasta. Select a ridged rigatoni or penne.
Half pound of 'nduja:
If you are lucky enough to have a butcher who will sell this by weight or:
Chop 200 g pork belly,
50-75 g trimmed chopped pork shoulder.
1-2 Tablespoons of smoked dried chillis, ground.
(or 1 Tbsp ground chilis and 1-2 tsp smoked ground paprika)
1-2 Tablespoons salt, preferably sea salt.
Mix ingredients in a bowl to distribute salt and chilli. Place mixture in mincer or meat grinder and process through fine die. A food processor will also work, just be careful to keep it emulsified (by pulsing) and not overwork or over heat.
I prefer to use this after a few days so the flavours have a chance to mingle. Although we use casings, it is easily stored in plastic wrap as well.
Open a wonderfully economical bottle of Cannonau di Sardegna, pour yourself a glass.
Heat saute pan over medium flame. Add olive oil and saute about 1/2 a large onion until soft. Add 'nduja in chunks with 1-2 cloves of garlic moving nduja around until it melts. Once melted (the fat will separate from the meatier bits), add 500mL of homemade conserva. Allow to simmer and reduce slightly. A few minutes before pasta is done add some torn basil leaves and chopped parsley.
Drain pasta, toss with sauce. Take pasta in serving bowl with cutlery and your wine glass to the dining area. Pass fresh grated Parmigiano at the table.
UPDATE: Had the opportunity to get some 'ndjua recipe tips from the locals.