Hot like the Calabrian sun – Pizza with nduja, pecorino and rocket

This blog post is dedicated to a single glorious product, a Calabrian sausage speciality called nduja. “A sausage? Your making a fuss about a sausage?!” – Yes, because nduja is so much more than a simple sausage (And as a German I know what I am talking about):

Nduja is a spreadable sausage made of pork with looooads of red peppers, spiced with fennel and oregano amongst others. Although it is in fact a salami, the consistency is more like a coarse pâté, thanks to the high percentage of fat. It has an intensive red colour which comes from the huge amounts of calabrian peppers that are mixed into the sausage. The other spices complete the taste and make this sausage an addiction for which the word umami must have been invented. Tim Hayward from the London Guardian wrote already a few years ago a real paean of praise on nduja, calling it “the single most exciting ingredient” he came across for ages, very likely to  cause “semi-sexual food narcosis”. So here you go!

As nduja is a really hot affair you definitely should handle it carefully. A small portion will go very far. Start with a knife point and have a look how much nduja you can bear. You can call yourself a Calabrian if you’re able to smear it simply onto a slice of bread… If you don’t want to go that far, use it to spice up your tomato sauce, all kinds pf pasta dishes, soups,…

…or top your pizza with little dabs of nduja. About one tablespoon of this hot wonder ingredient is enough for a two-person-pizza. I paired the tomato sauce-nduja pizza base with grated pecorini cheese (You could use any other aged or middle-aged cheese that can keep up with the nduja, f.ex. parmesan, manchego.), that I sprinkled on the pizza only after baking, together with a good handful of rocket.

When it comes to pizza dough, I have my simple and easy basic recipe that I shared I while ago. But there’s nothing that can’t be improved, right? So I included two inspirations that I got from a friend and from my father: increased time for the dough to proof and the addition of semolina. While you get a more fluffy and fragrant pizza by giving the yeast more time to do its job, the semolina gives your pizza a more crispy crust. Both together: Sensational combination! For a similar pizza dough have a look at Snehs adaption of a Jamie Oliver recipe.

Pizza with nduja, pecorino and rocket (2 p.)

160 g bread flour, 50 g semolina, 1 teaspoon active dry yeast, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small can chopped tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, salt, sugar

100 g pecorino, 150 g rocket, 1 tablespoon nduja

dough: Stir together yeast and sugar with about 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 2 tablespoons flour in a large bowl. Cover and let rest for 15 min. Add remaining flour and salt and knead while adding lukewarm water as you need it. Knead for at least 2 min. You should end up with a still a bit sticky homogenous dough. Now leave your pizza dough covered an undisturbed at a warm place for about half a day to rise, punching it gently down again about every two hour with olive oil on your palms. (You can abbreviate at any time.)

Last, knead semolina into the dough, roll it out with the help of some additional flour and put it on a baking tray, layed out with baking paper. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for another 15 minutes. Preheat oven to its highest level, normally about 220º C.

sauce: My quick and easy way to tomato sauce for pizza is to simply use 1/2 cup of  tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, sugar and herbs, perhaps add a bit of tomato purée…and that’s about it.

If I have a bit more time and/or I want to have just more intensity in taste, I make this cooked tomato sauce using a whole (small) can of tomaotes and boiling it down to halve of the amount on medium heat without lid. This takes about 20-30 minutes. As the whole flavour doubles, it is best to add salt and sugar only at the end to make sure you don’t overdo it. Add herbs, and garlic if you like, at beginning of the cooking time. And that’s about it as well.

Finishing pizza: When oven is preheated, spread tomato sauce on dough and add small dabs of nduja. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the pizza crust looks crispy and a little browned. Meanwhile grate pecorino and wash rocket. ( I like to cut it also into smaller pieces, just for eating comfort.) Take pizza out of the oven, sprinkle with pecorino and rocket. Cut into slices and eat!

Note: If you may have overdone it with nduja – dairy products help to reduce the fire in your mouth and throat 😉


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