A couple months ago, when I tried Calabrian chiles for the first time, I was inspired by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen staff’s obsession with these particular flavor bombs.
So when Bon Appetit’s Facebook account reposted an old article about Molly Baz’s love for ‘nduja (not to mention an even older article written by Chris Morocco on the same subject), I decided I needed to try it for myself. They didn’t steer me wrong with the chiles, after all!
So off I went to purchase La Quercia’s ‘nduja and work it into my next weeknight dinner. If you’re unfamiliar with this foreign product (the “j” is pronounced like a “y”), it’s a spicy pork sausage spread that’s often paired with crusty bread and cheese.
For dinner, I went with a simple tomato sauce that I melted the ‘nduja into and served with rigatoni and parmesan. I often make a similar meal with hot Italian sausage, so I figured this time I was just subbing out the familiar sausage links with a spreadable, meltable version instead.
Well. The final meal was very yummy. It’s hard to go wrong with pasta, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese, no matter what else you add. And the ‘nduja’s spicy, salty, slightly funky flavor happened to be a rather tasty addition in this case.
But. Let’s go back to that “slightly funky” part. I’ve never been a fan of describing food as “funky” because it sounds disgusting. Mold is funky. The leftover feta in the back of my fridge is funky. I don’t need to buy funk at the store.
However, since first trying Calabrian chiles, I’ve acquiesced that what can only be described as “funk” can sometimes taste good (not when it’s in goat cheese though!).
Which brings me back to the ‘nduja. In terms of flavor, the funk didn’t bother me. But it did make my whole bowl of pasta smell like salami, which is not a welcome funk in my book!
This brings me to a complicated, picky-eaters-get-it conundrum: even though I enjoyed the taste of ‘nduja in my pasta, recognizing its smell as a food that I don’t like (OK, that I’ve never had—that’s for another blog post) turned me off and made me question if I wanted more of it.
It’s illogical and childish, but I am who I am! I still ate the whole bowl! Like I said, pasta, tomatoes, and parmesan will always taste good. And being self-aware enough of your own childish, irrational behavior to finish your meal is a big step toward growing out of your picky eater tendencies!
But my adventure with ‘nduja didn’t end there. I pushed myself to eat one whole bite of a delicious baguette topped with this spread. This felt particularly brave given that I didn’t have sauce and cheese to mask the porkiness of this bite—just pure bread and spread.
Had I been brave enough to eat more than one bite, I might’ve formed a full opinion on this particular delicacy. But I wasn’t, so the prevailing though I was left with was “spreadable pork is weird.”
That’s my professional analysis.
So I’m not turned off of ‘nduja forever, but I think we need some more time together. Melting into pasta sauce (meltable pork is also weird, for the record) is a doable baby step, and I’m confident that I can work my way up to an enviable charcuterie board eventually.
Who has ideas of how else to eat ‘nduja? I’ve got some extra in my fridge that is bound to get funkier by the day, so I’m all ears for recommendations! Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles.