From the region of Calabria, in the toe of Italy’s boot, comes the fiery condiment known as ’nduja (pronounced en-DOO-yah). It’s a spreadable cured meat, made of ground pork and pork fat, mixed with hot and sweet pepperoncini, the curvy, glossy red peppers that serve as a symbol of Calabria. ’Nduja is enjoyed simply slathered on crostini or as a flavor-enhancer in pasta sauces, soups, pizza, or eggs.
Most believe that ’nduja was inspired by the French andouille (pork tripe) sausage, a staple of Napoleon’s soldiers when they occupied Calabria in the early 1800s. Others contend it came from 15th-century Spanish invaders, who brought peppers to the area after Columbus had discovered them in the Americas. All agree the village of Spilinga and its surroundings, in the southern part of Calabria, is where ’nduja originated.
The spread is considered cucina povera (peasant’s cooking), made with the pig’s cheaper parts—innards, underbelly, shoulder, and jowl. Butchers stuff a mixture of the ground pork scraps, pepperoncini, and salt into casings that get smoked over a wood fire for several days. After aging for another two to 18 months, the final product is a rich sausage that can range from mildly hot to blazing, depending upon the character of the peppers.
Beloved, ’nduja has been given two Italian nicknames: “red Nutella,” for its vibrant color and thick consistency, and “poor man’s Viagra,” as pepperoncini are loaded with stimulating vitamin E. Its popularity has spread worldwide. Wherever it’s enjoyed, the taste of ’nduja will connect you to the warm, energetic Calabrian spirit that inspired the “Mambo Italiano” lyric: “All you Calabrese do the mambo like-a crazy.”
Need to Know
’Nduja is available online and in Italian specialty shops. Once opened, it can be re-wrapped and refrigerated, and lasts up to six months. Jarred versions are typically less spicy.
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Where to Try It
Engastronomia LorenzoVia Margherita di Savoia 42, Tropea, 89861, Italy
A historic shop (since 1905), in the center of Calabria’s seaside resort of Tropea that sells excellent ’nduja, along with other Calabrian specialties.
’Nduja San DonatoVia Cesare de Bartolis, Spilinga, 89864, Italy
An artisan factory that produces high quality ’nduja, on the outskirts of Spilinga, the Calabrian village renowned for this specialty.