Pasta With Spicy 'Nduja-Tomato Sauce Recipe

The pantry-driven, weeknight meat sauce pasta you need right now.

Overhead shot of two white bowls filled with pasta with tomato sauce next to a pot of pasta.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • Jarred tomato passata makes for the easiest homemade tomato sauce in record time.
  • Every ingredient in this recipe has an extended, pantry-friendly shelf life, making this the perfect pasta for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
  • The soft spreadable texture and high fat content of 'nduja allows it to easily emulsify and meld into the mixture, for a meat sauce with no meat-cookery required.
  • Finishing cooking the pasta in the sauce ensures that the noodles are well-coated and al dente.

The best weeknight pasta recipes are ones that call for just a handful of pantry ingredients, involve very little prep work, but still come with a big flavor payoff. This recipe more than fits the bill. It's essentially a tomato-based meat sauce, but there's no raw ground meat to brown or cured pork to slowly render over low heat. Instead, this sugo gets its meaty richness from one of our favorite salumi: 'nduja.

Cross-section of a sliced 'nduja.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Nduja's high fat content, which gives it a soft, spreadable texture, also allows it to easily emulsify and meld into a quick tomato sauce made with just a couple of shallots (perfect for those of us who don't love ending up with a fridge full of forgotten half-onions), and a bottle of tomato passata, an Italian pantry favorite of puréed but not cooked-down tomatoes, which is used as a cheat code for quick sauces.

Paired with al dente ziti, broken-up candele, or any short tubular pasta, and grated Pecorino Romano, this 30-minute dinner hits all the flavor sweet spots—salty, savory, and funky from the 'nduja and cheese, with sweet acidity from the tomatoes. It's Sunday gravy on a Wednesday.


Pasta With 'Nduja-Tomato Sauce

March 2020

Recipe Details

Pasta With Spicy 'Nduja-Tomato Sauce Recipe

Cook 45 mins
Active 15 mins
Total 45 mins
Serves 4 servings

The pantry-driven, weeknight meat sauce pasta you need right now.


  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 large shallots (about 3 ounces; 90g), thinly sliced

  • Kosher salt

  • One (24.5-ounce; 700g) bottle tomato passata (see note)

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup; 115g) 'nduja (see note)

  • 1 pound (450g) dried ziti, candele (broken into 3-inch pieces), or other short tubular pasta

  • 2 ounces (60g) finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallots, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until shallots are softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. Add passata, and make sure to use up all of the tomato in the bottle by adding 1/4 cup (60ml) water to the empty bottle, screwing on the lid, shaking the contents, and then adding tomato-water mixture to the skillet. Bring to simmer, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until sauce is slightly thickened, 12 to 15 minutes.

    Collage of shallots frying, a bottle of passata being poured into the shallots, water is added to the bottle to use up all the sauce and the diluted mixture is added to the pan.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  3. Add 'nduja, and use wooden spoon to break up and stir into sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until 'nduja is fully emulsified and incorporated in sauce, about 1 minute.

    Collage simmering tomato sauce, a block of 'nduja being added to the pot, a wooden spatula breaking up the 'nduja and stirring the sauce until smooth.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until just softened on the exterior, but well shy of al dente, and still uncooked in the center (about 3 minutes less than the package directs). Using a spider skimmer, transfer pasta to sauce, along with 1/2 cup (120ml) pasta cooking water. Alternatively, drain pasta using a colander or fine-mesh strainer, making sure to reserve at least 1 cup (240ml) pasta cooking water.

    Collage of ziti being added to pot of simmering 'nduja tomato sauce and stirred to coat sauce.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  5. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring and tossing rapidly, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened and coats noodles, about 2 minutes, adding more pasta cooking water in 1/4 cup (60ml) increments as needed. Remove from heat, add half of grated cheese, and stir rapidly to incorporate. Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately, passing remaining grated cheese at the table.

    Overhead shot of stirring a pot of ziti covered in 'nduja tomato sauce.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment

Large skillet or straight-sided sauté pan, spider skimmer


'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 chiles, salt, and lactic acid.

Jarred passata (tomatoes that have been briefly simmered and passed through a food mill) can be found in the canned tomato aisle in supermarkets or Italian markets. If you can’t find passata, you can substitute crushed or whole canned tomatoes (roughly crush whole tomatoes by hand before cooking).

Make-Ahead and Storage

This pasta is at its best when enjoyed immediately, but it does keep well for leftovers, too. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The 'nduja tomato sauce can be made separately through step 3 and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week, or frozen for up to 1 month.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
525 Calories
29g Fat
41g Carbs
28g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 525
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 11g 53%
Cholesterol 78mg 26%
Sodium 1902mg 83%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 28g
Vitamin C 21mg 105%
Calcium 370mg 28%
Iron 6mg 35%
Potassium 1153mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)