Nduja Spells Opportunity

Nduja on a cutting board

A little bit of nduja can bring a lot of flavor to your menu. Here’s inspiration to be first-to-market with this opportunity.

Nduja (pronounced en-DOO-yah) holds plenty of menu potential for 2018, says Chef Jason Kalinowski, a Gordon Food Service® Culinary Advisor based in Milton, Ontario. “We’ve seen it showing up in specialty stores and butcher shops, so it’s ready for operators to put the right spin on it and bring it to the menu.”

This intense, spicy sausage hails from Calabria, Italy, and stands out with both its deep flavour and spreadable texture. It’s an artisanal butchery product that sees pork shoulder, Calabrian chile and pork fat stuffed into a casing, then hung up to cure. “The fat ratio is high enough that even after it cures, it’s still spreadable.” Application ideas are numerous, serving up big flavour in small doses—on charcuterie boards, pizza and pasta dishes, with potential for creative inclusion in vinaigrettes, flavoured butters and more.

As a flavour booster, ‘nduja is second to none, introducing deeply savoury notes with a serious blast of heat. At Buon Gusto in Guelph, nduja is on Chef/Partner Dave Manno’s menu in a couple of places. It’s on an antipasto platter called Salumi e Formaggi, which includes capicollo, nduja, caccutiri salami, gorgonzola, provolone, walnuts, peppers, olives and rustic Italian bread. This sausage also lends heat to the restaurant’s Calabrese Pizza, topped with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte, cooked prosciutto, roasted garlic, grana Padano and baby arugula.
Just a little bit of nduja goes a long way, which is good considering its hefty food cost (between $5.00 and $6.00 for 100 g.). Chefs can bypass the price tag problem by making their own version—one that delivers an enticing nduja flavour and a unique menu item customers will pay a premium to try. Making your own in-house nduja takes pureeing a dry-aged ham in a food processor with some sort of fat (either a duck fat or pork fat), then flavouring it with paprika or  cayenne pepper to turn up the heat. 

“I can’t think of too many parts of the menu that nduja wouldn’t add a little sizzle,” Kalinowski says. Since this sausage is uncommon on Canadian menus, nduja gives operators a first-to-market edge that adds menu flavour and complexity.

Kalinowski shares three opportunities calling on this spicy, spreadable sausage.

1. Spread the flavour

For operators who have enjoyed success with duck confit—flaking duck leg meat into a spreadable bar snack served with crostinis—Kalinowski sees a similar opportunity with nduja. “One of the easiest ways to present nduja is as a bar snack,” he notes. For operators looking to increase cheque totals, taking orders for a couple of bar snacks at $6 each lets diners experiment with the flavour experience while bringing in a few more dollars than one appetizer or sharable.

Examples on North American menus

  • NBLT Sandwich: Nduja, Beeler’s bacon, heirloom tomato, herb mayo, ciabatta—Forbidden Root, Chicago
  • Nduja with Grilled Bread—Roberta’s, New York

2. Dress it up

Vinaigrettes and other dressings offer a great canvas for a powerhouse ingredient like nduja. Nduja can dial up the umami of a Tuscan tomato-style dressing and give it buzz. “I love the inventiveness of a vinaigrette with nduja,” Kalinowski says. The addition of nduja into an already-prepared dressing or sauce is a quick-scratch way of adding flavour without adding a lot of labour cost.

Examples on North American menus

  • Roasted Sunchokes with nduja vinaigrette, mint—Souvage, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Grilled Moscardini Octopus in a pool of nduja vinaigrette—Cold Storage, Chicago

3. Crisp focus

Italian dishes are ideal vessels for nduja. “Pinching off the nduja sausage into small bits, then crisping them under the broiler or in the oven before adding them to pizza, pasta or dropping them into a soup is a natural,” Kalinowski says. Treating nduja as a garnish rather than making it part of the cooking process won’t overheat the entire dish, he points out. This scatters crispy little bursts of flavour throughout the dish that keeps diners constantly interested.

Examples on North American menus

  • Seaweed Bucatini with nduja, mussels, breadcrumbs, lobster bottarga—High Street on Hudson, New York
  • Duck Egg Toast: Jaime Farm’s duck egg, rustic toast, nduja, Reading raclette, oregano—Restaurant Winsome, Los Angeles

Nduja menu makers

Try these nduja recipes, or ask your Sales Representative for more ideas.

Nduja Burger recipe

Nduja Burger


Nduja Clams and Rigatoni recipe

Nduja Clams and Rigatoni