Picture this: you are living by the sea, kissed by the sunshine almost every day of the year and gifted with the longest summers you can ever imagine. All you want is something refreshing, that can help you cope with the heat, and this is exactly the type of food your area is famous for. WRONG!
Today we are in Calabria, a spectacular hidden gem in the south of Italy, the “toe” of the Italian boot.
In here, temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees in summer, even more – people are still talking about that summer in 1983, when they spent most of their days bathing in the sea, hoping for those 46 degrees to drop a little bit.
In such a hot environment, you would expect gelato or granita to be the most popular food – they are surely very much appreciated, but what Calabria is famous for is nduja.
Nduja is a spreadable salame, made of ground pork and pork fat mixed with super hot peppers, that give a chili heat and a bright red color. It originated in Vibo Valentia, and as of today it is still mainly produced in Spilinga. In the old days people couldn’t afford to waste food, so they came up with a very clever way to take advantage of the peppers offered by the environment, and combine them with the cheapest cuts of meat, that would otherwise be discarded. It is still not clear what inspired the creation of this spreadable delight: one of the theories is that ‘nduja was brought in Italy during the Spanish domination in the 1500s, while others think that it was inspired by the French andouille sausage, brought by Napoleon’s soldiers when they occupied Calabria in the early 1800s.
Today, the quality of the meat used to make nduja is obviously improved, and it is getting more and more popular worldwide – you will probably find some in your local supermarket!
If you want to try Nduja and are not very used to spicy flavours, I would suggest mixing a little bit of it with ricotta or burrata, they should “soften” the heat a little bit.
If you love bold flavours, and can handle the little fire in your tongue, you can go absolutely wild: nduja can be used in pizza, pasta, bruschetta, veggie roasts, sandwiches…the sky’s the limit!
What do you think, are you brave enough to try nduja? How are you going to eat it? Let me know! My favourite combination is bruschetta with Nduja and burrata, so simple but still very tasty (and hot)!