‘Nduja Carbonara

Andrew Carmellini’s recipe for an ‘Nduja carbonara or “Calabrian Carbonara” in a recent Food & Wine Magazine was the tipping point to hunt down the ingredient from Italy and see what it was like. I wonder if Mr. Carmellini’s ‘Nduja was locally made in the U.S. or smuggled in from Calabria, as pork product importation into the U.S. is still problematic… I ask, because I made the recipe and it nearly blew the heads off a few of the guests, figuratively, of course! :)

It’s simple enough. Saute some ‘Nduja with olive oil (to sub for pancetta or guanciale) then add to fresh organic egg yolks and egg, pecorino romano and it’s done. I followed proportions but it was way too spicy, almost painfully so. If I had cut back the ‘Nduja by say 40%, it would have been much, much better. Think of it as a condiment rather than a major part of the dish. I like the fiery porky quality it brings (just look at the gloss on those noodles along with the egg yolks) but too much can kill a good thing. Will give this one more go, but I have to say, I love a classic guanciale carbonara, so this isn’t replacing that anytime soon.


11 Responses

  1. This reminds me of a wonderful discovery I made using leftover devil’s curry into creamy pasta. Devil’s curry was, I’m guessing, originally a way to use up and preserve leftover Christmas meats, the ham hock being the star ingredient among other porky stuff. It was devillishly hot and sour due to the copious amounts of chillies, Colman’s mustard and vinegar. But what made it delicious was the right fusion of West (English mustard and the smokiness of ham) and East (apart from the chillies, also lemongrass and spices).

    Anyway, what I discovered was that using just the meats and almost none of the curry along with butter and cream into the pasta, created a very memorable fragrant, spiced but not hot pasta dish. So based on this serendipitous experience, you might want to experiment with nduja like so:
    – in plenty of oil, gentlyly fry bruised lemongrass, coriander root, sliced galangal (very Thai, I know, but it won’t end up that way), whole shallots, garlic pips and a pinch or two of turmeric till fragrant.
    – add in the nduja, cook through, followed by lemon/lime juice. Remove from the heat and leave for several hours or till the next day for flavours to meld and develop as well as for the chilli to leach into the oil.
    – for the pasta, saute some of this treated nduja in a mix of olive oil and butter followed by the pasta (tagliatelle or penne are great), salt and cream. It shouldn’t be saucy but ‘dry’.
    – plate it up topped with some parmesan shavings, cracked black pepper and a drizzle of the treated nduja oil around.

  2. I’ve had ‘nduja in a couple of restaurants here in NL. It was used more like a condiment and very sparingly.

  3. I’ve tried both Italian and American made ‘nduja and I preferred the milder American version. We bought the Italian one here in Manila, whereas the American one was bought on Amazon. You have to try that version since it really is so much better than what we bought here.

  4. It was either S&L or Italfood, I can’t remember for sure. There was something funky about the nduja there that I didn’t like. After enjoying the American nduja, we were a bit disappointed with the Italian one and am not sure whether it was just the heat level. Maybe there are variances in the different brands and you just have to find one that suits you.

  5. @Monty …Maybe there are variances in the different brands and you just have to find one that suits you…

    So much truth with a lot of Italian imported stuff. For the longest time I avoided panforte based on the execrable few I have sampled. But once, going through a basket of them at Zabar’s, I picked up a round that turned out to be truly astounding. I have learned to bake them myself ever since.

  6. If you’re looking for another pasta recipe idea for nduja, Boccalone in the US has a tasty recipe: https://www.boccalone.com/pages/Nduja-Spaghettini.html

    I made this years ago and enjoyed it (although I don’t remember if this particular brand of nduja was extremely spicy, though). I’ve also heard great things about the La Quercia nduja (also in US) as well… although haven’t had a chance to try it.

  7. Nduja varies in spiciness depending on the recipe. Some Italian ndujas are not as hot as what you describe (I assume you’ve a reasonably high tolerance for chile heat). The nduja from La Quercia and that from Boccalone are both mildly spiced, certainly mild enough to eat as part of a charcuterie assortment.

  8. You should totally buy Andrew Carmellini’s cookbook, Urban Italian. For me, it’s one of the best Italian cookbooks around. Definitely a great addition to your bookshelf.



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