The Calabrian ‘Nduja has becomed the latest trend in the foodie world. It first became known when the well known Calabrian chef Francesco Mazzei from L’Anima Italian restaurant in London used it in the Calabrian pizza he designed for Pizza Express. Although Pizza Express hid the ‘Nduja’s real name by calling it the spicy Calabrian sausage the product has come a long way since then and now features in many celebrity chef’s dishes and pizzas. Supermarkets and some online delis have also jumped on the wheel wagon and are cashing from the trend by offering cheaper and lower quality versions of the product, but if you’re the kind of person that wants to know where the food you eat comes from and are interested in good quality produce, well, we prepared the following short article to explain what is the ‘Nduja, where does it come from, how to use it, and how to distinguish a good quality one, so maybe the next time you’re in your favourite Italian deli you’ll know if you’re offered the real Calabrian ‘Nduja or just a cheaper version of the product.
What is ‘Nduja?
‘Nduja of Spilinga is a spredable cured meat or salami made with pork meat, salt, herbs and the famous Calabrian chilli making it quite a spicy cured meat. It was born as a humble ingredient prepared by farmers in order to use the remaining parts of the pig.
The name ‘Nduja comes from the French word “andouille” that means sausage. The original providence of this humble ingredient comes from the town of Vibo Valentia in the South East of Calabria, but nowadays is produced throughout the region.
The origins on how this product came about are still not very clear. According to some historians it was introduced by the Spanish in the 1500s and made using their traditional paprika, but as its name come from the French word “andouille” it reminds of a French sausage that could have been imported to Italy in Napoleon times around the years 1806-1815. Is believed that Gioacchino Murat Vicerè from Naples and Napoleon’s brother-in-law ordered the free distribution of a cured meat very similar to what we know now as ‘Nduja.
The ‘Nduja as part of the Calabrian culture
The ‘Nduja is a symbol of the Calabrian culture and now has become one of the region’s biggest exports together with their cheeses, cured meats, wines and olive oil.
This ingredient is so part of the Calabrian culture that every year in the town of Vibo Valentia the 8th of May the festival of the ‘Nduja is celebrated. A gastronomic experience were all the people of the town gets together to celebrate this ingredient by preparing many different dishes using it. As a visitor you will be received by different small celebrations around the town that then end at the main piazza with the traditional dance “u camijuzzu i focu” or camel of fire. Throughout the festival you will also find food stands offering these traditional dishes and all sort of products based on the ‘Nduja.
This festival is the oldest folklore celebration in the town of Vibo Valentia.
How to use ‘Nduja?
Being a spreadable cured meat the ‘Nduja is eaten spread over warm bread or used in cooking. Because its patê like consistency when added onto any cooking it will completely melt adding to your dish the fantastic spices, meat and chillies flavours enhancing the overall taste of any dish.
The most common dishes where you can use ‘Nduja are Pasta Bolognese, a simple tomato sauce, casseroles, gravy, and many others. Click here for ‘Nduja recipes.
Because it is quite spicy is best to try little amounts every time until finding the correct amount for your taste buds.
Where to buy ‘Nduja?
There many online and off line delis and supermarkets selling ‘Nduja. Although is difficult to know before trying which one is good quality and which not we always suggest trying to buy it from an authentic Calabrian retailer that would have brought it from Calabria or indeed from Vibo Valentia such as www.calabriataste.com or an Italian retailer that does bring authentic Italian produce or in Borough market, London.
But if you’re still not sure on what to look for when buying ‘Nduja here a few tips on how to identify good quality ‘Nduja.