What is Nduja?
'Nduja is a soft, spreadable fermented pork salume, spiked with fiery Calabrian chilies. It originated in Spilinga, a Calabrian municipality with a population in the low thousands. The name 'nduja might seem similar to the French andouille, and that’s likely because of the influence of the Angevins, who ruled over Calabria in the 13th century—though there are plenty of other theories about where it got its name. The sausage itself also bears many similarities to Spanish sobrasada, with possible influence coming from the Aragonese, who later controlled the region as well.
While its full origin story remains a bit of a mystery, we do know that ‘nudja was born out of poverty and necessity—a cured pork product for those with limited resources. Poor farmers who raised and butchered pigs would sell the most expensive prime cuts of pork to royal and upper-class families who could afford them. What the farmers were left with was a mixture of offal, excess fat, and meat trim left over from the butchering process. On their own, these scraps (known in other parts of Italy as the "quinto quarto," or "fifth quarter," in reference to the four primal cuts on an animal) weren't a delicacy on their own, but they could be transformed into something delicious (and resistant to spoilage) when blended together, seasoned assertively, stuffed into a casing, and cured for a long period of time.
In those days, in addition to fatty cuts of pork from the belly and back, 'nduja also contained organ meat such as lungs, which would otherwise have gone to waste. Though modern 'nduja-makers might include other ingredients, at its simplest 'nduja contains little more than ground pork, salt, and a mouth-numbingly spicy dose of Calabrian chilies, which gives the salume its signature red glow.