Jacob Kenedy, Bocca Cookbook (Bloomsbury)
Flipping through the pages of Jacob Kenedy's Bocca, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe highlighting an ingredient from my ancestral home, Calabria, Italy. That ingredient is ’nduja. Made from the meat from the head of a pig (except the fleshy jowels, which as guanciale, is used separately) it is an extremely spicy and spreadable sausage, first made in the village of Spilinga. In Calabria, it is spread on panini , dolloped onto pizza, and mixed in with pasta.
Kenedy here combines it with sliced grape tomatoes, red onion, fresh arugula, and, for an English twist, dilutes the ’nduja in heavy cream. There are only a few places in New York and New Jersey where you can find ’nduja (save from slaughtering a pig and making your own), and it usually runs about $20 a pound. I opted to use a jar of ’nduja that friends had brought back from Calabria. The recipe calls for a quarter pound of sausage, but because the jar was so potent, I used only a tablespoon, mixing it into the sauce of cream, tomato and onion, until it turned a rich rust color. I tossed it with orecchiette, topped it off with wilted arugula, and served it to guests with pecorino romano cheese.
The result—a warm smokiness, with a fresh kick. In short, absolutely delicious.
ORECCHIETTE WITH ‘NDUJA
Even a small amount of ’nduja is enough to make for an extremely spicy pasta, but the heat
is tempered slightly by the cream. Nonetheless it is imperative to serve a crisp yet aromatic
white (Grillo or Fiano or Falanghina, say), or an ice-cold beer, to help you through.
Serves 4 braves as a starter, 2 as a main
7oz fine semolina, or 9oz bought fresh orecchiette, or 7oz dried (but only if you must)
1 red onion, halved and sliced with the grain
1/4 lb cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 oz ’nduja* (page 83) – or 1/4 lb if storebought and not quite so strong
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups arugula, very roughly chopped
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano, to serve
*’Nduja can be replaced with 1/4 lb crumbled Italian sausage and as much chili – dried, fresh
or both – as the cook can bear.
Make the orecchiette as on page 154. It is a labour of love, but you will be well rewarded.
Just before you put the orecchiette on to boil (or just after if they are dried), fry the onion
and tomatoes in the oil over a high heat for 3 minutes, until softened and slightly browned.
Crumble in the ’nduja and fry for 30 seconds, then add the wine and a small ladleful of
water. Let it bubble for a few moments, then add the cream.
Allow the sauce to cook until the cream has reddened, and thickened if it looked watery,
then add the drained pasta (still a little wet) and the arugula. Cook until the arugula is
wilted and the pasta coated in the sauce. Serve with grated Pecorino on top.