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A touch of spice

‘Nduja (pronounced un-DOO-yah)  is a typical product from the town of Spilinga, in the province of Vibo Valentia, Calabria. They are proud of their signature export, and hold an ‘nduja festival every August. 

The sausage is an interesting an versatile ingredient, as it is spreadable, making it ideal for topping bread or as a base for spicy sauces. It has a consistency similar to pâté, and thanks to its peak in popularity a few years ago, it is now more readily available in food shops outside Italy. 

The origins of ‘nduja are a little misty. Some believe that it was invented in the 16th century when the chili pepper was first brought into the region. Others claim that it is more recent, dating back to the 1900s when Calabria was under Napoleonic rule. The name is thought to derive from the French andouillette (a similar French sausage, but made without spices). 

In recent years, 'nduja has become more popular all over the world, unleashing a lot of spicy creativity in kitchens and food trucks everywhere. We'll show you a Calabrian pasta recipe that goes back to its humble origins. 

The Fileja is a type of handmade pasta typical of the Calabrian province of Vibo Valentia. It's traditionally made using a “donacu”, a stick from the “sparto”, a wild plant that grows throughout the region, is the traditional tool that is used to create this pasta shape.  

The ‘Fileja’ takes its name from the fact that the dough is worked into small tubes about ten centimeters long, wrapped around the “donacu” and stretched with a quick movement with the palm of the hand. 

Difficulty: Easy
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Quantity: serves 4
Cost: Medium

Ingredients

400g Fileja pasta (or similar)
100g ‘nduja
400g tomato passata
1 red Tropea onion, finely chopped
breadcrumbs to taste
Grated Pecorino (sheep’s cheese), to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste

Method

  1.  In a skillet, sauté the onion in a little olive oil, add the tomato purée with a pinch of salt. Then, leave to simmer over a very low heat for half an hour.  
  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil, so it’s ready for the pasta.  
  3. When the onion is softened, add the ‘nduja and let it melt into the sauce for a few minutes.  
  4. Cook the pasta al dente in salted water as per the instructions on the packet (around 8 - 10 minutes). If you can't find fileja, look for a similar shape in your local food store. Before draining the pasta, take a little cup of the pasta water, as you might need it to bind the sauce later.  
  5. While the pasta is cooking, toast some breadcrumbs lightly.  
  6. When you’ve drained the pasta, stir it into your ‘nduja sauce. If the sauce seems a little dry, just add a splash of the pasta water and simmer over a medium flame for a few minutes. The starch in the cooking water will help to bind the sauce and pasta together!  
  7. To serve, sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and grated pecorino cheese.


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