‘Nduja is a Calabrese culinary phenomenon, but hardly anyone knows about it in the U.S., outside of Calabresi.
What is ‘nduja?
Culinary critic Tim Hayword, in his article “A Little Dab’ll Nduja,” has trouble defining it while raving about it: “I could say it was a soft Calabrian salami, I could say it was a sort of preserved pâté, I could even, at a stretch, call it a sort of hot chilli haggis, but there’s one thing I can say with absolute conviction: ‘nduja is the single most exciting ingredient I’ve come across in ages.”
Moreover, Tim states . . .
“Nduja is a unique salume from Calabria. It’s distantly related to a sopressata in the sense that it’s made up largely of pig-head bits (minus the cheeks which are used for more premium guanciale) but flavoured with spectacular quantities of red pepper. The strange name is related to the French andouille and, though ‘nduja is also packed into that rather worrying lower end of the gut to form its singular shape, it has nothing to do with the much more polarising (and let’s face it, poopy) andouillette.”
Ironically, I learned about ‘nduja, not from my nonno, but from a Calabrese sandwich maker headquartered in the Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence. It looked like a spread as he made my sandwich, but the taste was amazing! I made up for lost time by returning every day to get my fix.
The Piazza Santo Spirito sandwich shop was jammed every day. My snobby Florentine neighbors set aside their criticism of Calabresi to feed their faces with our beloved ‘nduja. Their faces were transfixed! Their pupils dilated! Smiles wiped out their frowns. My Florentine neighbors morphed into the French villagers, eating Juliette Binoche’s chocolate in the film Chocolat. ‘Nduja had transformed their boring lives, reviving their long-lost passion.
The owner smiled at the effect of his ‘nduja–while counting his money.