Spicy Prosciutto Spread

Above: ‘Nduja makes for a flavorful addition to any appetizer plate. Photographer: Duane Tinkey

“There’s a new fat in town!” exclaimed C.J. Bienert, owner of the Cheese Shop and Cheese Bar. “And it’s the coolest thing to happen [in] artisanal food in years.”

Bienert was talking about La Quercia’s ’Nduja, a spicy prosciutto spread that’s turning a lot of heads both locally and nationally. (The New York Times and Bon Appétit both have written about it enthusiastically.)

First, let me assure you that pronouncing it is much easier than it looks. According to Kathy Eckhouse, who runs La Quercia with her husband, Herb Eckhouse, it’s pronounced “en-do-ya.”

“As in ‘en-do-ya’ love me?” she says.

Frankly, ’Nduja is easier to pronounce than it is to describe, as there’s really nothing else quite like it. But once you see and taste it, it makes perfect sense. You could think of it as a little like a very spicy pâté, except it’s not made from liver and it’s a lot more versatile.

I asked Kathy Eckhouse how she and Herb enjoy ’Nduja at their house. She offered these tips:

Stuffed dates extraordinare: The Eckhouses’ favorite way to serve it is to stuff a little of the ’Nduja into a pitted date; wrap the date with La Quercia pancetta, put it on an ovenproof tray, and bake it for five minutes at 350 degrees.

Something even simpler: Kathy also enjoys simply serving it in a little crock alongside Rustic Bakery olive oil and Sea Salt Flatbread Bites. Sounds like a great plan for your next casual aperitivo (that Italian ritual of a drink and nibbles at the end of the workday).

All over the place: “Spread on the inside of a grilled cheese sandwich before grilling/griddling. Toss into sauteed veggies or pasta near the end of cooking. Stir into an insipid pot of beans,” she says. “Plus, it’s pretty tasty on a baked potato.”

Bienert says that he, his staff and his customers have found all kinds of uses for it too, such as using it to lard a chicken, braise greens or start a gravy.

As for me, I especially enjoy it when I need a quick meal in a hurry. I toss cooked, drained pasta with some ’Nduja (about one tablespoon per serving) plus olive oil, then serve in a shallow bowl with plenty of grated Italian cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano. It’s about the best 10-minute entree I know of right now.

Look for La Quercia ’Nduja at the Cheese Shop, select Hy-Vee stores and Gateway Market.

–Wini Moranville

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