This recipe is a companion piece to our feature article Luciano Schipano Recalls the Calabrian Tradition of the Pig.
‘Nduja, the spicy, creamy, spreadable salame, is a distinctly Calabrian product, but traditionally only from certain areas of Calabria. The most famous of these is Vibo Valentia, the home province of my zia Agnese, who taught me this recipe.
There a many uses for ‘nduja. We eat it on toasted Calabrian bread (crostini), pizza, and semi-matured cheeses, and in frittatas and pasta sauces. Fileja con ‘nduja (a Calabrian handmade pasta) and zuppa di fagioli con ‘nduja (a traditional bean soup) are common dishes.
The origin of its odd name stems from the Latin inducere, meaning “to insert.” Etymologically it’s connected with two other salami insaccati: salam dla doja from Piedmont and andouille from France.
Since the term is likely of French origin, some date the invention of ‘nduja during the Napoleonic period (1806-1815). Others believe it was the Spaniards who introduced it when they brought the peppers to Calabria for the first time. Whatever the true story may be, it’s unclear to us today, hidden in the tales of the older generation and conflicting official histories.
- 1 kg pork meat (I use pancetta or guanciale)
- 1 kg pork fat
- 1 kg peperoncino mixture (sweet and hot paprika mixed with spicy polpa di peperoncino, to taste)
- 90 g salt (to make the mixture soft and moistened)
- ¼ L red wine (to make the mixture moist and soft)
- 4 synthetic collagen soppressata casings (9×30 cm diameter, 700-800 gr per casing) or salted, naturally preserved casings
Tools and equipment
- Sausage grinder
- Extra large bin for mixing
Making the ‘nduja
- Thoroughly soak intestines with cold water for 5/10 minutes. Or, if using salted natural casings:
- Rinse salt from casings with fresh water
- Soften by soaking in fresh water at room temperature 15 minutes to one hour
- Take casings to stuffing table. Place in a bath of fresh water
- Pre-flush the casing by blowing air into the casings and allow it to run through. This also facilitates getting the casing onto the filling horn and moving it smoothly during the filling process
- Slice meat and fat into strips small enough to run through grinder
- Grind meat and fat twice, to give it a creamy, spreadable texture
- Make pepperoncino mixture by combining hot and sweet paprika and the spicy polpa di peperoncino (you may find this at some gourmet Italian butchers), to taste
- Thoroughly knead / combine meat, fat and pepperoncino. Add wine and continue to mix until evenly distributed in the mixture.
- Let rest for half hour
- Get ready to stuff the ‘nduja: lubricate horn with a wet cloth, slide on casing; pull a small amount out to and tie in a knot.
- Begin stuffing the casing:
- Hold the casing loosely at the tied end of the casing with one hand and let the ‘nduja feed into the casing as you turn the crank with your other hand.
- Hold with one hand the casing, and with the other hand press to distribute the stuffing equally. The casing will slide out as you feed the grinder. Go slowly enough to control the process, so the casings are stuffed evenly.
- Air pockets will occasionally form: use a needle to release excess air.
- Press and massage casings as you fill them. The finished ‘nduja should have the consistency of an orange.
- Keep doing this until you finish your mixture.
Curing and smoking the ‘nduja
- Tie and hang the ‘nduja in a cantina of 10-15 C°
- Ventilate the cantina by opening the little window in the morning and closing it at night. Do this daily for the first two weeks. (Airflow reduces moisture on the casings and helps prevent “bad” mold, anything other than the white kind. However, be careful to avoid direct airflow on the ‘nduja.
- (Optional, if you are smoking the ‘nduja). On the first day after making the ‘nduja, smoke the meat. I do this by lighting woodchips in a small aluminum pan and letting it smoke up the inside of the room. Keep the door closed to avoid smoke leaking out into your home. Smoke once a day for two week, then once every ten days for the remainder of the curing time. (Back home in Italy, we used to select small branches from olive, heath or oak trees for smoking the meat. Each one adds a distinct flavour).
- I age my ‘nduja around six weeks for every kg. So if I make 3 kg it would likely take a little more than 18 weeks. You know it’s ready when a white mould starts to form outside the casing and it turns very dark red in colour.
- Smoking the meat is a very old practice that adds flavour and helps the curing process, but it is not mandatory.
- If you don’t have a cantina, you can create an artificial one using a refrigerator. Hang the ‘nduja in the lower level of the fridge. Dampen the casings once a day, but be careful to do so quickly to avoid to much exposure. Using a fridge takes less time for curing but the flavour is a little different because it’s a more sterilized environment.