Playing with fire
Hot, soft and spreadable, 'nduja is a versatile starting point for spicy nights in
Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee
The first time I tasted 'nduja was when I was interviewing New York chef Mario Batali, when he was in Hong Kong for the opening of Lupa restaurant in Central. He spread the soft, spicy cured pork sausage from Calabria, Italy, on a piece of bread and told me, "it's kind of spicy", which turned out to be an understatement - "fiery" wouldn't be far off the mark. The sausage can be difficult to find in Hong Kong - so far, the only place I've been able to buy it is from online Italian-products delivery service Buonissimo (buonissimo.hk). On the plus side, a little goes a long way.
Pasta with 'nduja, tomatoes, mascarpone and shaved pecorino
I add a spoonful of mascarpone to this dish because its cool creaminess tempers the spicy flavour of the 'nduja.
225 grams pasta, preferably a rolled type such as garganelli or strozzapreti
10ml cooking oil
1-2 shallots, halved then thinly sliced
160 grams small tomatoes, preferably yellow or orange, halved
About 75 grams 'nduja
About 45 grams mascarpone
Pecorino, in one piece
Fresh basil leaves
Fine sea salt, as needed
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Heat the oil over a low flame in a skillet, add the shallot and cook until soft. Stir in the 'nduja, then add the tomatoes and season to taste with salt. Increase the heat, cover the pan and cook until the tomatoes start to soften and give off their juices. Stir the ingredients until the tomatoes have shrivelled slightly, then turn the flame to low and add the mascarpone. Mix gently to combine; do not heat the ingredients too much or the mascarpone might curdle. As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain it but do not rinse it; add it immediately to the skillet and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Taste the sauce and stir in more 'nduja, if desired. Divide the ingredients between two pasta bowls and shave some pecorino over each portion. Top with a few basil leaves, then serve.
Peppers, onions and garlic with 'nduja
These spicy peppers can be used to top thickly sliced toasted bread for bruschetta, combined with leftover roast chicken, pork or beef as a filling for a sandwich or heated and served with a fried or poached egg.
200ml olive oil, or more as needed
6 large red, orange or yellow bell peppers, or a mixture of colours
12 cloves (or more) of garlic
About 75 grams 'nduja
Fine sea salt, as needed
A little granulated sugar
Trim the tops and bottoms from the bell peppers and remove the cores and seeds. Slice the peppers into strips about 5mm thick. Halve the onions and slice them about 5mm thick. Thinly slice the garlic cloves.
Heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a large, wide pot. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and heat until they start to sizzle, stirring often. If needed, add more olive oil so the vegetables are well coated and swimming slightly. Turn the heat to low and cook the ingredients gently - they shouldn't fry in the oil; they need to cook slowly so they become soft and sweet. After about 30 minutes, stir in the 'nduja and season with a little salt. Continue to cook until the peppers and onions are very tender but not falling apart. Taste the ingredients and add more 'nduja, if desired, as well as a little sugar (which balances the heat). Cool the ingredients then put them into glass jars. The peppers and onions should be completely submerged in olive oil; if needed, add more to the jars. Cover the jars with the lids and put them in the fridge. This keeps them for a couple of weeks. After the peppers and onions are eaten, the leftover olive oil can be used for salad dressings, or to sauté vegetables and meats.
Shrimp and squid with 'nduja and garlic
120ml olive oil
12 fresh shrimp, with bodies about 6cm in length
6 squid, with bodies about 5cm in length
6 garlic cloves
About 50 grams 'nduja
Fine sea salt
Remove the heads from the shrimp, but leave the shells on. Cut the shrimp down the back through the shell with a very sharp knife and remove the vein. Clean the squid by pulling the heads and tentacles from the bodies. Clean out each body cavity, removing the guts and the clear quills. Pull the skin from the cavities, then rinse thoroughly inside and out. Cut the bodies into rings about 5mm thick and turn them inside out (this helps them to stay round when they're cooked). Trim off and discard the heads from the tentacles. Dry the squid rings and tentacles with paper towels.
Slice the garlic and put it into a skillet with the olive oil. Heat over a low flame until the garlic starts to take on a little colour. Increase the heat and stir in the 'nduja. Add the shrimp and cook for about a minute, then add the squid pieces and a sprinkling of fine salt. Sauté until the seafood is just cooked, then transfer the ingredients to a serving dish. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and lots of napkins.