Mark my words, nduja will be THE ingredient of 2024, and this creamy nduja pasta is a great gateway recipe to get your feet wet. This creamy pasta dish comes together in under 20 minutes and celebrates the funky, spicy flavors of this Italian spreadable sausage. So, it is about time you find this Italian delicacy and start cooking with it.
Before we delve into what it is, let’s learn how to pronounce it. Repeat after me: en-doo-ya. Now that’s out of the way, Nduja is a spreadable Italian sausage originating from Southern Italy, specifically the region of Calabria. This bright red, fatty, soft salumi is spiced with fiery Calabrian chilies, giving it a delightful flavor with a great heat level. If I could try to pinpoint the exact flavor, I would say think of it as a really soft, spicy salami or even pepperoni, with just a slightly funkier flavor. While the easiest and number one way to enjoy this ingredient is to spread it on crusty bread, nduja has endless uses. Top a pizza, cook it with eggs, or in this case incorporate it into a pasta dish.
When eating nudja cooking is not required, however because of it’s fat content it simply melts into dishes. When cooking with it, a little goes a long way. In the case of this pasta dish we only use 3oz , which is plenty to get the spicy funky flavor across in this creamy sauce. Once opened store tightly wrapped in cling wrap in the fridge for 3 months.
Alright you now know what Nduja is and what it tastes like. The big question is, where are you going to find it. While some other food blogs say it is an easy ingredient to find, it is not. I searched high and low for this spicy salumi and after countless upsets I finally found it, at my local Italian deli. While I know not everyone has an Italian deli with an extensive cured meats section below are a few other places to check out.
Nduja should only have four ingredients: pork, salt, Calabrian chilies, and lactic acid if you are purchasing this in the US. I would probably steer away from any nduja spread or nduja sauce that is pre-jarred and has more than these ingredients. The color could range from orange to deep red, and that all depends on how long it was cured.
While this is an easy recipe, it will require a little intuition. Pasta water is your friend here, and at times you may need to add more than what is required in the recipe. If at any point after the heavy cream is added the sauce looking a bit thick or just not enough to support the pasta it is probably because the sauce over reduced. The best solve for that is to add more pasta water. I don’t want to hear in the comments that this cream sauce wasn’t creamy enough, add more pasta water.
Prepare the Pasta – You need the pasta water pretty early on, so even before you start cooking the nduja, start boiling the heavily salted water. Depending on the cook time, you should be dropping the pasta in right as you turn on the burner to make the sauce. Cook the pasta as per packaging and reserve 1 1/2 cups of water; yes, it is a lot. The recipe calls for 1 cup to be added, and the additional 1/2 cup is just in case. Like just in case you over-reduced the pasta water or even the heavy cream. This sauce should be saucy, and pasta water is the best way to loosen the sauce before putting in the pasta.
Melt the Nduja – In a pan over low heat, add the butter. Once melted, grate the garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute. We aren’t looking to brown the garlic, so watch the heat here. Add in the Nduja and break it up with the back of the spoon; this should be very easy unless it is coming from the fridge. Cook for 1-2 minutes until it has melted into the butter. There will be little pieces; that is normal, as there is meat in it, after all.
Create the Sauce – Deglaze the pan with the wine and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the pasta water and simmer for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. Look for a simmer, not a rolling boil. The pasta water should thicken a bit and reduce by a little less than half. Add the heavy cream and simmer for 2-3 minutes, mixing vigorously to incorporate the fat into the sauce. Don’t be alarmed if the fat doesn’t incorporate at first. You know the sauce is done when there aren’t pools of fat and the sauce can coat the back of the spoon. If by any chance it is a little too thick or it over-reduced while trying to incorporate, add more pasta water to thin it out. Turn off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese. Add the pasta another tbsp of butter, toss to coat and serve.
This creamy nudja pasta is best eaten fresh. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. The best method of reheating pasta is to place it back in the pan with some excess pasta water to add back moisture. Heat on low, until warm throughout.
Want more pasta? Check out the below creamy pasta recipes.