I'm ashamed to say that if asked a year or two ago I would have guessed that ‘nduja was an obscure form of martial art undertaken only by itinerant goatherds in Tibet. These days I know that it’s a soft, fiery Calabrian pork sausage, which is delicious eaten as it is with a little bread but also makes an excellent addition to risottos, pasta sauces, stews and, as in this case, soups. If you haven’t tried it, you may be put off by the price or by the fact that it’s become a tad trendy. Please ignore the trendiness and, although it can be quite expensive, a little does go a long way.
The sweetness of squash combines well with the ‘nduja and I used the variety 'crown prince' to make this soup. Crown prince is difficult to peel but has a lovely nutty flavour with a rather dry texture that I like a lot. Other types of squash will also work perfectly well.
This same combination of roasted squash and ‘nduja can also be used to make an excellent risotto, especially if some chopped fresh sage leaves are added towards the end of the cooking time.
This amount should make at least 4 decent lunchtime portions or more if served as a delicate starter.
The flesh from around ½ a crown prince squash, cut into roughly 3cm dice (this assumes a squash weighing around 1.6 – 1.8 Kg before preparation)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp marsala
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 litre vegetable stock (you may need an extra 200 – 500 ml but water will do)
40 g ‘nduja
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Toss the diced squash with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast the squash until it’s fairly soft and a little brown round the edges. This is likely to take about 30 – 40 minutes but keep an eye on it because the roasting time will vary with the type and age of squash you choose.
Soften the onion and garlic gently in a little oil in a large pan for 5 minutes or so. Add the balsamic and the marsala and let them bubble away for a minute or two. Add the potato and the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the roasted squash, cover again and continue simmering for around 20 minutes until the veg is thoroughly soft. Break up the ‘nduja, add to the pan and continue cooking for a few minutes more, stirring all the time.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Liquidise and add as much extra water or stock as needed to give the desired thickness. Adjust the seasoning (you probably won’t need much) and add a squeeze of lemon if the soup is a little too sweet. Serve with a dash of finely chopped herbs (a little sage works really well) if you have some to hand.