Why It Works
- Dollops of spicy 'nduja hold their shape when baked quickly in a high-temperature pizza oven.
- Placing fresh basil leaves on the dough before topping with tomato sauce and cheeses keeps them from burning during baking.
- Using a dough specially formulated for high temperature outdoor pizza ovens produces perfectly baked pies with a crisp bottom and tender crust.
I’m a huge fan of the soft, spreadable, spicy Calabrian cured pork product ‘nduja, and keep a slab of it in my larder almost all the time. It's essentially a “hard” salami that has been formulated and prepared to remain soft and spreadable, despite being as shelf-stable as lower-moisture dried salume. (For more about to the myriad joys and uses of ‘nduja, check out this comprehensive guide.)
Though it has the funk and the spice of a cured sausage, ‘nduja's texture is far closer to a fresh one. While I use it all the time on pizza (and elsewhere), I think it especially shines on pizzas cooked in my tabletop outdoor pizza oven. That’s because when pizzas are cooked at temperatures of 800°F (425°C) and up in just two minutes or so, the ‘njuda doesn’t tend to melt into the pie. Instead, it stays intact in little mounds, just like slices or dollops of fresh sausage would. But unlike fresh sausage, it’s the sort of ingredient you can keep in the fridge for whenever the occasion arises.
As for what to pair it with here, I kept things simple to let the ‘nduja take center stage: a simple tomato sauce, Parmesan and fresh mozzarella cheeses, along with fresh basil leaves, placed beneath the cheeses and toppings to keep them from burning. It’s the sort of classic pizza topping combination that never goes out of style.
- 1 recipe for outdoor pizza oven pizza dough
- 1 (28-ounce; 795g) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, juices reserved
- 24 fresh basil leaves
- 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces (340g) fresh mozzarella, torn into 3/4-inch pieces and patted dry
- 2 ounces (1/4 cup; 60g) 'nduja (see note)
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to rest in proofing containers, covered, at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before baking. Dough temperature should reach 60˚F (15.5°C) before stretching and baking; exact timing will depend upon ambient temperature.
Using a countertop or immersion blender, process tomatoes until a coarse but evenly blended sauce forms, about 10 seconds. Transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; if needed, add reserved tomato liquid to yield 2 cups (475ml) sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
Preheat pizza oven to 800°F (425°C). When ready to bake, coat one dough ball generously on both sides with flour and place on well-floured surface, seam side down. Gently press out dough into rough 8-inch circle, leaving outer 1-inch higher than the rest. Gently stretch dough into a 10- or 12-inch circle (final dimension depends upon the size of your oven) about 1/4-inch thick by draping over knuckles and gently stretching. Transfer to floured wooden or perforated metal pizza peel.
Working quickly, scatter 6 basil leaves over pizza, leaving outer 1/2-inch rim untopped. Spread an even layer of tomato sauce over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, followed by mozzarella. Dollop ‘nduja in 2 teaspoon amounts over sauce. Drizzle with olive oil.
Transfer pizza to oven and bake, rotating pie regularly with a metal peel for even cooking, until rim is lightly charred and bottom is crisp, 90 to 180 seconds total. Retrieve pizza with a metal peel and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with parsley (if using), slice, and serve immediately.
Repeat steps 5 through 7 for remaining pizzas.
'Nduja is a spicy spreadable pork salume that originates from the southern Italian region of Calabria. In the US, it can be purchased at specialty shops that carry salumi/charcuterie, Italian markets, or online from producers like Tempesta Artisan Salumi. Look for 'nduja made with just four ingredients: pork, Calabrian chilies, salt, and lactic acid.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Tomato sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.