Nduja (pronounced en-DOO-yah) represents one of the biggest menu opportunities for 2018, says Gordon Food Service® Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC. “It’s really taken off recently, with a strong showing on menus during our street-level research in 2017.”
This intense, spicy sausage hails from Calabria, Italy, and stands out with both its deep flavor and spreadable texture. It’s an artisanal butchery product that sees pork shoulder, Calabrian chile and pork fat that’s 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 flavor in small doses—in items like vinaigrettes and flavored butters, as well as pizza and pasta finishes, to name a few.
As a flavor booster, ‘nduja is second to none, introducing deeply savory notes with a serious blast of heat. At the Loyalist in Chicago, it helps make this concept’s biscuit program stand out, serving freshly baked biscuits with ‘nduja butter and ramp honey. Sarah Grueneberg, Executive Chef of Monteverde, also in Chicago, amps up the flavor of arancini, that classic Italian bar snack. Her ‘Nduja Arancini sees risotto balls flavored with ‘nduja, rolled in breadcrumbs, then deep fried. She serves them with olive oil, poached tuna and tomato.
Just a little bit of ‘nduja goes a long way, which is good considering its hefty cost (about $30-40 a pound). Some chefs are circumnavigating its price tag by making their own versions in-house. “We saw some really innovative takes on ‘nduja, like a dry-aged American country ham puréed in a food processor with some sort of fat—either a duck fat or pork fat, for instance—then flavored with some kind of chile, maybe paprika and cayenne,” he says. They do call their takes ‘nduja—their versions still deliver a spicy, spreadable sausage—but these chefs are making it a more affordable option for menu development.
“I can’t think of too many parts of the menu that ‘nduja wouldn’t add a little sizzle,” Ludwig says. “You can serve it as a spread, use it as a flavoring ingredient in soups, stews, salads and more. It’s also a great component in global fried rice dishes, pizzas and flatbreads, and pastas.” Adding nduja gives operators a first-to-market edge, creating menu differentiation and flavor complexity.
Here are three opportunities calling on this spicy, spreadable sausage.
1. Spread the flavor
“One of our favorite presentations of nduja on our trends tour was as a shareable spread,” Ludwig says. As an element on a charcuterie plate or as a stand-alone bar snack or appetizer, ‘nduja offers a flavor-packed experience. At Chicago’s Forbidden Root, the N’duja Sausage plate offers nduja drizzled with olive oil and local honey, garnished with pickled mustard seeds and served with grilled bread.
- 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. With its meaty backbone, ‘nduja dials up the umami beautifully, particularly when featured in veg-centric builds that respond well to more assertive flavors.
- 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
“Another great technique showcased at various restaurants during our research tour was this—pinching off the nduja sausage into small bits, then crisping them under the broiler or in the oven,” Ludwig says. Doing so yields these little flavor bombs with craveable texture, scattered over a pizza, in a pasta, and so on.
- 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.