• “...It’s made the same way that salami is made. The big difference is the amount of fat that you use for ‘nduja makes it softer than salami and spreadable.” (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
There's so much more to Calabria's salami spread, 'nduja, than its chilli kick. Here's the low-down on how to savour this powerful fermented product.
Yasmin Noone

1 Sep 2021 - 11:27 AM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2021 - 12:06 PM

--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm and 10.00pm, or stream it free on SBS On Demand. Catch Nelly Robinson making 'nduja bruschetta on 2 Setpember. ---


‘Nduja, the famed spreadable salume hailing from Italy’s south, is a fierce ingredient that demands your attention. Lace the Calabrese spread over a slice of soft sourdough to taste its truth and you’ll realise why.

Soon after your tongue grazes over ‘nduja’s soft meaty texture, its high chilli content should heat your throat.

If you close your eyes, you may notice a dot of sweetness underlying the feisty product. Herein lies ‘nduja’s hook – the traditional inclusion of hot and sweet pepperoncini (red peppers) ensures that the spreadable salami leaves you with a manageable chilli kick that’s so addictive, you’ll be hanging for more.

Executive chef at Wollongong’s Northbeach Pavilion, Massimiliano Borsato, says ‘nduja’s heat is intense. “You can spread it on bread and eat it, but how it will taste will depend on how much you use," Borsato tells SBS.

To demonstrate the spread's intensity, the chef cites the example of Vegemite - a product most Australians are familiar with. "If you spread too much on your bread, it will taste too salty. It’s the same sort of thing with ‘nduja: if you add too much, the bread will taste too hot. So just spread a small amount for a nice flavour.”

Throughout Italy, ‘nduja (pronounced ‘en-doo-ya’) is referred to as ‘red Nutella’ and ‘poor man’s Viagra’, relating to the belief that chilli peppers are a natural Viagra.

How is 'nduja made?

Although ‘nduja’s origins are disputed – some say it was introduced to Italy in the 13th century while others claim it was in the early 1800s – it’s generally agreed that ‘nduja was inspired by the French andouille (pork tripe) sausage.

It’s also believed that ‘nduja – like many other cucina povera dishes in Italy – was born out of necessity. The cured pork product that’s resistant to spoilage was originally made using excess fat and meat trimmings left over from the butchering process.

Native Sardinian and co-owner of Salumi Australia, Massimiliano Scalas, currently makes ‘nduja using free-range pork from the Northern Rivers region in NSW.

“Compared to salami, ‘nduja is not as well known in Australia,” the 49-year-old Scalas tells SBS. “But it’s made the same way that salami is made. The big difference is the amount of fat that you use for ‘nduja makes it softer than salami and spreadable.”

Scalas says Salumi Australia’s ‘nduja recipe contains 50 per cent fat and 50 per cent lean meat. “You also need to use a lot of chilli. In about 100 kilos of meat used to make ‘nduja, there is around 25 kilos of chilli. The chilli breaks down the meat to help make it soft.”

Once the ingredients are all minced together, the meat is stuffed into big sausage casings and fermented. “The fermentation process goes for two to five days, and then we age the product for about three months.” The final result is a large, soft spreadable salami sausage with a definite chilli hit.

Nduja bruschetta with parmesan and basil

This is a great way to use up yesterday's bread. 

How to use 'nduja at home

Borsato is a huge fan of ‘nduja, partly because of its versatility and simplicity. It goes well in pastas – just toss it through warm spaghetti and watch it melt. The chef has also used the spread to pepper a tomato sauce used in risotto and a baked eggplant dish.

‘Nduja can also be added to your favourite pizza. “I spread tomato on the pizza base first and then add a dollop – about half a tablespoon – of ‘nduja on top.”

Borsato uses ‘nduja on two pizzas on the Pavilion’s current menu: on a white base with porchetta, porcini and a mix of wild mushrooms, and fior di latte mozzarella; and atop a red base with San Marzano tomato, fior di latte mozzarella, green chilli and mild salami.

“If you want to use it on pizza at home, be careful not to add too much, otherwise all you will taste is chilli and you wont enjoy the meat flavour of the salami spread or taste the salty and sweet flavours of the other ingredients in your meal.

“Just remember that ‘nduja always needs to be used in balance with other ingredients, no matter what you cook with it.”

Spaghetti vongole e 'nduja

The beautiful juices from the vongole add such a rich depth of flavour to this spaghetti, all complemented wonderfully with fresh herbs and chilli.

Roast garlic stracciatella with nduja dumplings

This recipe is based on a classic Spanish roast garlic soup found in many variations throughout the country – this particular version gives us an Italian feel. A simple and easy soup to make, it truly highlights the deliciousness of sweet caramel-like roast garlic. Not for the fainthearted, it is perfect for a spicy evening snack on a hot summer's night.

’Nduja and mascarpone pizza

One of the best pizza experiences I had was in Italy with the excellent de Maria family who were lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven at the bottom of their house. Pizza after pizza kept coming, all thin and with only a few toppings on each. Very delicious. So here is the pizza base recipe we use at Berta topped simply with creamy mascarpone and fiery ’nduja. Feel free to add any other toppings you desire, but not too many at once, please.