From Scratch to Spread: Crafting Delicious ‘Nduja in Your Kitchen

Welcome to the world of homemade ‘nduja – the spicy, flavourful delicacy originating from the Calabria region of Italy. In this guide, I’ll share my journey of crafting this beloved spreadable salami paste. Join me as we explore traditional techniques and ingredients to create irresistible homemade ‘nduja that will spice up your kitchen and impress your loved ones!

What is ‘Nduja?

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Growing up, the concept of ‘nduja was entirely foreign to me. In our household, it simply wasn’t part of our culinary repertoire, and our family vacations never took us to the picturesque region of Calabria (what a missed opportunity!). So, the delightful world of this spicy salami spread remained undiscovered.

Even when I had the chance to visit Calabria during my university years with friends, our interests veered more towards beachside picnics with simple sandwiches and frittata di maccheroni. Little did I know that the real culinary treasure of the region was waiting to be found.

It wasn’t until I moved to London that I had my first taste of ‘nduja. The year was around 2005 or 2006, and I had just prepared a batch of fileja, a traditional pasta shape from Calabria. Eager to pair it with an authentic sauce, I stumbled upon references to fileja and ‘nduja. Intrigued, I delved deeper into my research, uncovering the secrets of this tantalisingly spicy paste.

Despite my excitement, locating ‘nduja proved to be a challenge. Even the most well-stocked Italian delis in the city came up short. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a quaint Italian deli, run by a Calabrian proprietor, that my luck began to change. After patiently waiting for a couple of weeks, I finally got my hands on some ‘nduja. To say I was elated would be an understatement.

homamde 'nduja spread on a slice of bread
Italian uncooked fileja pasta

Fileja

Spilinga - Roman aqueduct

Spilinga – Roman aqueduct

Best wines for ‘nduja

  • Primitivo
  • Nero d’Avola
  • Grenache/Garnacha
  • Zinfandel
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Chianti

With a whole kilo of ‘nduja in my possession (yes, you read that right!), I embarked on a culinary adventure like never before. My first taste of it, generously spread on a slice of homemade bread, took me by surprise with its fiery kick. Undeterred, I set to work making more fileja, inviting friends over to share in the feast. Needless to say, it was an evening filled with laughter, good food, and unforgettable memories.

However, as I soon discovered, ‘nduja has a short shelf life once opened, and freezing it is not an option. Buying and consuming a kilo of it within a few days was out of the question – it would be ‘nduja overload! Thus began my quest to learn how to make it at home. I reached out to countless people, pleading for the secrets of the traditional homemade ‘nduja recipe. It felt like an eternity, but eventually, a kind soul came to my rescue, sharing their family recipe with me. To this day, I am forever grateful to that benefactor who made it all possible.

The wonderful ‘nduja hails from the picturesque Poro plateau, particularly Spilinga, known as its capital. Every year on August 8th, the town of the Coast of the Gods comes alive with the vibrant ‘Nduja Festival, attracting hoards of eager tourists.

How It’s Made

Once considered a humble dish, it was crafted using offal. Nowadays, we prepare it with a blend of pork mince, pancetta, and lard, seasoned to perfection with fiery chili peppers. After mixing everything together, we let it rest for a day before stuffing it into casings. The next day, we treat it to a smoking process with acacia, olive, or oak wood, infusing it with rich flavours. It is then dried for up to 60 days.

The Origins and Name

Now, let’s unravel the mystery behind the name ‘nduja! Historians can’t quite agree on its birth story. Some say it dates back to around 1500, brought to Italy by Spaniards alongside chili peppers. Others believe it was the French who introduced it to Italy in the early 1800s. Legend has it that Joachim Murat, in his bid to win over the people of the Neapolitan state, distributed a French salami made with pork tripe for free.

Adding to the intrigue, the term ‘nduja seems to have French roots, stemming from “andouille,” a sausage made with pork tripe. The term is believed to have derived from the Late Latin word “inductilia,” meaning “edible entrails” or “sausage.” There’s even a similar term in Piedmont, the “salam d’la duja.”  So, whether it’s rooted in Latin or French, one thing’s for sure – ‘nduja has a rich and flavourful history that continues to captivate people around the world.

aerial view of red chilli powder in a white bowl
Lardo - pork fat
Pancetta
larderello, pork back fat

Nutrition

 

While ‘nduja is undeniably indulgent, it also offers some nutritional benefits. Packed with essential fats and vitamins, it can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, providing sustained energy and nourishment.  This recipe is high in fat and provides a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates. Enjoy it as an occasional treat to savour its unique taste without compromising your health.

  • Proteins 1% 1%
  • Carbs 3% 3%
  • Fats 96% 96%
homamde 'nduja sslice

The only ingredients you need to make ‘nduja

Meat

Pancetta and guanciale are both types of pork products that are typically cured and used in various Italian dishes. However, when it comes to making ‘nduja, we’re talking about using these meats in their fresh, uncured, and unseasoned form.

Pancetta is essentially pork belly. This delicacy brings the perfect mix of meatiness and fat to the table, giving dishes that luxurious texture and savoury kick we all crave. And get this – because it’s not smoked or cured, it stays juicy and tender, making it an absolute dream to use in ‘nduja.

Guanciale –is made from the pork jowl or cheek. This gem packs a punch with its rich fat and subtle “porky” goodness. And just like fresh pancetta, this uncured delicacy stays tender and brings a richness that takes ‘nduja to it full flavour potential.

Head over to your favourite butcher and ask for fresh pancetta and guanciale. Make sure they mince them to the finest grind possible. Your mince should have a texture similar to a rough paste. Once you’ve got these meats all sorted, you’re ready to create some magic with your ‘nduja recipe!

Red bell pepper powder

Adding red bell pepper powder to your ‘nduja recipe is the secret ingredient that brings out all the goodness! It’s not just about adding a pop of colour; it balances out the spicy kick from the chilli powder and brings a lovely depth to the mix. Think of it as giving your ‘nduja recipe that extra boost of deliciousness that’ll have everyone asking for seconds!

 

Chilli

When it comes to making ‘nduja, the chilli you choose and how much you use are key ingredients that give this spicy spread its unique flavour. Traditionally, ‘nduja from Calabria uses local chilli peppers known for their intense heat and fruity taste. These peppers are dried in the sun and ground into a fine powder before being mixed into the ‘nduja.

In my own ‘nduja recipe, I like to add about 10% chilli powder (100 grams for kilo of meat) for just the right amount of kick. But hey, we all have different taste buds! If you’re not sure about the spice level or prefer something milder, start with just 3% chilli powder (30 grams per kilo of meat) and adjust to your liking. It’s all about finding that sweet spot that suits your palate!

Keep in mind, some ‘nduja recipes crank up the heat with as much as 30% chilli powder! So, feel free to play around and find what works best for you. After all, cooking is all about having fun and creating something delicious that you love.

 

Fat

Larderello is a crucial ingredient in homemade ‘nduja. Now, I’ll be honest—I’m not entirely sure how to translate “larderello” into English, but here’s what you need to know: when you’re at the butcher, make sure to ask specifically for pig fat from the back. That’s the key ingredient we need to get that creamy texture and rich flavour in our ‘nduja.

Basically, larderello is the pig fat we use to give our spicy spread its rich and creamy texture. We usually go for the fat from the pig’s back because it’s nice and solid, which adds that smoothness we love in ‘nduja. When we mix it with chilli powder, salt, and spices, larderello helps create that delicious flavour and texture that makes ‘nduja so irresistible.

 

Important information about curing your homemade ‘nduja

Keep the humidity levels in the curing room at around 60%

So, why is it important to keep the humidity at about 60% when you’re curing your homemade ‘nduja? Well, here are a few reasons:

  1. Prevents Excessive Drying: You don’t want your homemade ‘nduja to dry out too quickly, you need to preserve the spreadable characteristic of ‘nduja. A humidity level of 60% helps with that. If it dries out too fast, you might end up with a tough crust on the outside, which could mess with the whole curing process and make the flavours uneven.
  2. Promotes Even Curing: Ever had a batch of cured meat where some pieces tasted different from others? Not cool, right? Well, keeping the humidity steady helps make sure the curing happens evenly throughout the meat. That means every bite will taste just as delicious as the next.
  3. Reduces Spoilage: Nobody wants to bite into spoiled meat. Yuck! By keeping the humidity at the right level, you create an environment that’s not so friendly to nasty bacteria. This helps keep your homemade ‘nduja safe to eat and free from any funky smells or tastes.
  4. Makes it Taste Better: Slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to flavour. With the right humidity, the flavours in your ‘nduja can develop gradually, giving you a more complex and downright delicious taste in the end.
Keep the room temperature between 8°C-12°C (46°F-53°F)

Why is it important to cure your homemade ‘nduja at a temperature of 8°C / 12°C (46°F / 53°F)? Let me break it down for you:

  1. Slow Preservation: You want your meat to last! Curing it at this temperature range slows down the growth of those pesky bacteria that can make it spoil.
  2. Consistent Texture: Ever bitten into meat and found it unevenly cured? Not a great experience. By keeping the temperature steady, you ensure that the meat cures evenly all the way through. That means every bite will be just as tasty and tender as the last.
  3. Prevents Spoilage: Nobody wants to waste good homemade ‘nduja because it’s gone bad too soon! By keeping things cool, we prevent the meat from spoiling prematurely. It’s like giving it a little protective chill blanket.
  4. Optimal Enzyme Action: Think of enzymes as little flavour-makers and tenderizers. They do their best work at moderate temperatures – just like us! By keeping the temperature in the sweet spot, we make sure those enzymes are working their magic to give us the best flavour and texture possible.

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How to make ‘nduja

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homemade 'nduja

Calabrian style ‘nduja


  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 60 minutes
  • Yield: 40 portions 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 700 grams of Lardello (firm pig fat from the back) – finely ground
  • 300 grams of pork pancetta and/or guanciale – finely ground
  • 30 grams of salt
  • 100 grams (up to) of red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 200400 grams of sweet bell pepper powder
  • Natural sausage casing (available from the butcher)
  • Orange peels

Instructions

  • Rinse the natural casings thoroughly under cold water.
  • Keep the casings in cold water with orange peels to prevent them from drying out.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the finely ground meat and lard.
  • Add the salt, red hot chili powder, and sweet bell pepper powder to the mixture.
  • Stir well until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture has a homogeneous texture. Adjust the spiciness according to your preference, aiming for a hot flavour. 
  • Using a sausage making machine or piping bag, fill the casings with the meat mixture. Ensure there are no air pockets in the casings.
  • Tie off the filled casings at regular intervals to create individual sausages.
  • Shape the sausages by twisting and tying them at desired lengths, similar to traditional sausages.
  • Place the prepared ‘nduja sausages in a basket or tray for 12 hours to allow the flavours to meld.
  • If you prefer a smoky flavour, you can cold smoke the ‘nduja for about 1 hour before allowing it to cure. Use olive or orange wood for smoking. Follow recommended smoking techniques and precautions for food safety.
  • Leave the ‘nduja sausages to age for 60-70 days in a cool environment with a temperature of 8°C-12°C (46°F-53°F) and humidity around 60% (see notes in blog).

Notes

Start with 30 grams of hot chili powder per kilo of meat if unsure of its spiciness.

If you don’t have a meat grinder, ask your butcher for finely ground meat. Ensure that the meat is finely ground to the desired consistency. There should be no small pieces of meat left; instead, it should spread well, resembling a coarse paste.

When it comes to storing ‘nduja, it’s best to avoid the freezer. Freezing ‘nduja can cause the formation of ice crystals, which can affect its texture and flavour. Instead, keep it chilled in the refrigerator for optimal enjoyment. Remember, ‘nduja is best enjoyed when chilled but never frozen.

When kept in its casing, ‘nduja can last for several months in a cool place or the fridge. However, once opened, it’s important to preserve it properly. Wash and sterilize a glass jar by placing it in the oven at 100°C (212°F). Allow to cool. Transfer the opened ‘nduja into the sterilized glass jar. Cover the ‘nduja with extra virgin olive oil to help preserve its freshness. Seal the jar tightly and place it in the fridge. Consume the ‘nduja within a few days for the best flavour and quality.

To minimize waste, it’s recommended to make small-sized ‘nduja sausages.

  • Prep Time: 60 minutes
  • Curing Time: 60 days
  • Category: Meat
  • Method: Curing
  • Cuisine: Italian
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FAQs

Is 'nduja similar to chorizo?

‘Nduja shares some similarities with chorizo, but they  have distinct differences:

1. Ingredients: Both ‘nduja and chorizo are cured meat products, but their ingredient compositions differ. ‘Nduja is typically made from finely minced pork meat, fat, and Calabrian chili peppers, giving it a smooth, spreadable texture and intense spiciness. Chorizo, on the other hand, commonly contains pork meat, paprika, garlic, and other seasonings, resulting in a firmer texture and a milder, smoky flavour.

2. Texture: ‘Nduja has a soft, spreadable consistency, similar to a paste, due to its finely minced ingredients. Chorizo, on the other hand, has a firmer texture, often sliced or diced for use in cooking.

3. Spiciness: One of the defining characteristics of ‘nduja is its fiery spiciness, attributed to the use of Calabrian chili peppers. Chorizo can vary in spiciness depending on the recipe and type, but it is generally milder compared to ‘nduja.

4. Usage: While both ‘nduja and chorizo are used in cooking, they are often employed in different culinary contexts. ‘Nduja is commonly spread on bread, incorporated into sauces, or used as a pizza topping to add a bold, spicy kick to dishes. Chorizo is frequently sliced and cooked in dishes such as stews and soups, or served as part of a charcuterie board.

Can I adjust the spiciness level?

Yes, you can adjust the spiciness level of homemade ‘nduja to suit your taste preferences. Typically, ‘nduja consists of approximately 30% chili peppers and 70% meat, but you can vary the ratio based on your desired level of heat. If you prefer a milder ‘nduja, you can reduce the amount of chili peppers used in the recipe. Conversely, if you enjoy a fiery kick, you can increase the quantity of chili peppers or even incorporate hotter varieties for an extra punch of spice. Experimenting with different quantities allows you to customise the spiciness level of your homemade ‘nduja to create a flavour profile that perfectly complements your dishes.

How long does homemade 'nduja last?

Once you’ve opened your homemade ‘nduja, it’s essential to store it properly to preserve its irresistible flavour and texture. 

How to store your ‘nduja in a sterilised mason jars:

1. Cover with Oil:  Ensure it’s fully submerged in oil before sealing. This creates a protective barrier and helps preserve its rich flavours.
2. Refrigerate: Store the jar of ‘nduja in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness. Remember to consume it within a few days to savour its peak flavour.
3. Enjoy Promptly: Unlike vacuum-sealed commercial ‘nduja, the homemade may have a shorter shelf life once opened. Make the most of its deliciousness by incorporating it into your culinary creations without delay.

By following these simple storage guidelines, you can continue to enjoy the ‘nduja bold, spicy character. Whether spread on crusty bread, stirred into pasta sauces, or used to add flair to your favourite dishes, ‘nduja is sure to elevate your culinary adventures to new heights of flavourful indulgence.

Is 'nduja suitable for vegetarians?

No, ‘nduja is not suitable for vegetarians. It is a type of cured meat made from pork, specifically pork meat and fat blended with Calabrian chili peppers. Therefore, it is not suitable for individuals following a vegetarian diet.

Can 'nduja be frozen?

Avoid Freezing: Resist the temptation to freeze ‘nduja, as the formation of ice crystals could compromise its texture and flavour. Keep it chilled but never frozen for optimal enjoyment.

What is the difference between 'nduja and sobrasada?

‘Nduja and sobrasada are both cured meat products with origins in Mediterranean cuisine, but they have some key differences:

‘Nduja:

– Origin: ‘Nduja originates from Calabria, Italy.
– Ingredients: It is typically made from finely minced pork meat, fat, and Calabrian chili peppers.
– Texture: ‘Nduja has a soft, spreadable consistency similar to a paste.
– Spiciness: It is known for its intense spiciness, deriving from the use of Calabrian chili peppers.
– Usage: ‘Nduja is often used as a spread on bread, incorporated into sauces, or added to pizzas and pasta dishes.

Sobrasada:

– Origin: Sobrasada hails from the Balearic Islands of Spain, particularly from Mallorca.
Ingredients: It is made from ground pork meat, paprika, salt, and other seasonings.
Texture: Sobrasada has a softer texture compared to traditional cured meats, but it is firmer than ‘nduja.
– Spiciness: While sobrasada can be spicy, it is typically milder than ‘nduja, with the level of heat varying depending on the recipe.
– Usage: Sobrasada is commonly spread on bread or crackers, used as a topping for pizzas, or incorporated into dishes like stews and omelettes.

 

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

“Ciao, I’m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, I’ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. I’ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and let’s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!”

2 Comments

  1. tempmail

    What a fantastic resource! The articles are meticulously crafted, offering a perfect balance of depth and accessibility. I always walk away having gained new understanding. My sincere appreciation to the team behind this outstanding website.

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