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What Is... Mortadella?

Mortadella is…

The talk of the Town. Seriously, the LA Times described it as ‘THE trendy Italian meat with 1,000 years of staying power’.

Mortadella di Bologna – the best-known variety – is made from cured, ground and emulsified pork with at least 15% white fat cubes, plus whole or chopped pistachios nuts and a unique blend of spices.

Its signature dotted look is achieved by adding the extra fat content and the most common spices used are black pepper, coriander, anise, mace, even caraway or myrtle berries. In Spain, they may add olives, in Portugal red peppers.

What does Mortadella taste like?

Once you’ve eaten Mortadella, beware – it can be addictive! The primary flavour is of rich, fatty pork with hints of spice. If this sounds that it might overwhelm your palate – relax – as due to the fact the meat is emulsified, the flavours are very well-balanced, rich and lingering and the texture smooth and velvety.

The dots of fat are misleading when it comes to Mortadella’s nutritional value. In truth, the dots are mostly beneficial unsaturated fats similar to olive oil.

How is Mortadella made?

In Ancient Rome, where it was first developed, Mortadella was known as ‘Mortarium’ meaning minced or pounded in a mortar. This technique was adopted in Bologna, a city famed for Mortadella production. Another theory is that it is named after a sausage flavoured with myrtle berries that Romans called farcimen myrtatum – Take your pick.

Each Salumificio (cured meat factory) may have had its own techniques, but…

  • Grab your meat grinder.
  • Add previously cooked cubes of fat from a pig’s throat.
  • Then add in lean pork meat from the back and shoulder.
  • Grind/mince the meat & pound to a soft texture
  • Sprinkle in seasoning – salt, black pepper and whatever spices you choose…don’t forget the pistachios!
  • Stuff the mixture into a casing and place in a pan covered in water
  • Slowly bring to the boil and simmer for at least 24 hours or bake in dry air ovens until cooked
  • Leave to cool in cold water or dry in the chimneys

Mortadella was the food of the nobility as only the nobility could afford such a piece of equipment as a grinder. It is labour intensive and extremely hard to make without one – give it a go and you’ll find out just how hard.

Is Mortadella the same as Bologna?

Actually No…. Bologna is produced differently. The fat and meat are emulsified into a uniform mixture which can make it bland by comparison.

Bologna can be made with pork and beef whereas Mortadella is solely a pork meat product and often preservatives are added to Bologna making it more processed, less “natural”. They both have their fans and uses, but there is a clear distinction.

How do I use Mortadella?

Mortadella is a very versatile Charcuterie…

  • Sandwiches – eat it finely sliced served on focaccia or ciabatta or fette biscottate (rusks)
  • Pasta – throughout Italy, you will see Mortadella added to pasta.
  • Charcuterie Board – add slices to your board with extra pistachios, a generous slice of gorgonzola and a light, chilled sparkling wine… and you are good to go.

Try these Mortadella Recipes...

Did you know?

If your Mortadella has an S stamped on the skin. it is the real Mortadella di Bologna.

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