In Calabria, the sunbaked toe of the Italian boot, pigs roam almost wild, grazing on chestnuts, marjoram and spearmint. ’Nduja, a spreadable salami, is formed from the alchemy of their fragrant meat and fiercely hot Calabrese peppers.

Created as a way to use up a pig’s more humble parts, ’nduja has become a Calabrian speciality. The Spanish imported chilli peppers to Italy in the 16th century, but it’s possible ’nduja (‘an-DO-yah’) developed from the French ‘andouille’, a coarse, spicy smoked-pork and garlic sausage, as the pronunciation is similar. But this incarnation – with its extraordinary marriage between taste and heat – was born in Spilinga, in Calabria’s deep south.

You'll Need
1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and
’Nduja to taste
400g (14oz) good-quality
tinned Italian tomatoes
480g (1lb) dried pasta
Grated ricotta salata (salted

Cooking Method
1 Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onions until caramelised. While they are cooking, put on a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
2 When the onions have softened and have a golden colour, add the ’nduja to them and let the salami paste melt over the gentle heat. The more you add, the punchier the sauce, so use as much as you feel it needs.
3 Once all the salami fat has melted, mix in the tomatoes, and continue cooking the sauce as you cook the pasta, which you’ll now add to the boiling water.
4 Cook the pasta until al dente (still has some bite), drain and mix in the sauce.
5 Serve topped with a sprinkling of ricotta salata.

Tasting notes
The salami paste is deep, dark, chilli red. Try it spread on a chunk of locally made bread. A bite starts with the blowtorch blast of the infamous Calabrese peppers, which then slowly subsides, allowing the powerful, creamy flavour of the pork to foreground. The complex, punchy taste also enhances multiple Calabrese dishes, such as pasta with ’nduja and fagioli (beans). To outsiders, Calabria has an air of mystery, infamous for its mafia (the ‘Ndrangheta) and wild countryside strewn with higgledy-piggledy towns. The best place to try ’nduja is here, near Spilinga, where it was invented. Warm your cockles with it in autumn or winter at a rustic neighbourhood trattoria, or as part of a picnic overlooking wooded landscapes.

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