Mortadella di Bologna

Don't call it Baloney!

 

Cubes of mortadella are a great starter/appetizer

 

You may have seen it at the supermarket, packed in individual slices next to the other pre-packaged baloney products. Sadly this is what most Americans think of when they hear the word mortadella. However real Italian mortadella, the pride of the city of Bologna is more than just fatty baloney. Either served in a sandwich, as an appetizer or part of the main course Mortadella di Bologna is yet another delicacy coming from the bountiful region of Emilia-Romagna.

 

Mortadella hails from the food rich town of Bologna, aptly nicknamed "la grassa," meaning fat. Among the many pork sausage products made in this region, it is this one that is the most celebrated. Mortadella has been made for at least five hundred years, but may have origins in Roman times. A favorite sausage of the Romans was called farcimen mirtatum and was flavored with myrtle berries and prepared by using a mortar and pestle. The name for mortadella originates from the Latin words for myrtle (mirtatum) and mortar (mortario) and the sausage was made the same way up until the Middle Ages. Today the preparation and ingredients are a little different as Italian culinary life has evolved over the centuries.

 

Bread and mortadella

 

Mortadella di Bologna starts with finely ground pork, usually the lesser cuts of meat that are not used for other types of sausage. In fact Mortadella is a testament to the resourcefulness of the Italian pig farmers as nothing edible on the pig is wasted. This ground meat is mixed with a high quality fat (usually from the throat) and a blend of salt, white pepper, peppercorns, coriander, anise, pieces of pistachio and wine. The mixture is then stuffed into a beef or pork casing depending upon the size of the sausage and cooked according to weight. After cooking mortadella is left to cool in order to stabilize the sausage and give it firmness.

 

The end product must meet certain guidelines to be considered a Mortadella di Bologna such as the meat blend must be a seven to three ratio of pork to fat. The sausage texture must be firm, each slice must have an evenly distributed amount of fat squares called lardons. These distinctive squares must be firmly embedded into the sausage and should not separate during slicing. What you find in a true Mortadella is a slightly firm, pink sausage accented by the white squares of fat. It should be slightly spicy but smoothed out by the lardons and should have a distinctive aroma.

 

Mortadella

 

A close cousin to Mortadella di Bologna is the Mortadella di Amatrice. This smoked and aged mortadella is native to the town of Amatrice located in the Apennines. This version is flavored with a different spice blend that includes cloves and cinnamon. Germany and America have their versions, which are known as bologna (or baloney) but do not have the distinctive fat squares and vary in taste and quality.

 

Slicing, Serving and Storing Mortadella

 

Like most Italian sausage products (the exception being Salami) the thinner the slice the better. Thin slices of Mortadella have a better mouthfeel and allow the palate to absorb the subtle flavors of the meat and spices. Thin slices also enhance the unique aroma of the sausage, however Mortadella can also be served in small diced cubes similar to ham.

 

Mortadella a fette, slices of Mortadella

 

Mortadella is a very versatile sausage that lends itself to all sorts of meals, from appetizers to main courses. Served with walnuts, cheeses and tart berries, or used as base for a delicious creamy spread mortadella makes a delicious ingredient to antipasti. Mortadella can also lend its flavor to eggs as an ingredient to an Italian omelet known as a frittata. When it comes to pasta, mortadella shows up as a stuffing in another Bolognese masterpiece, tortellini. However true lovers of this famous sausage often just slice or cube it and serve it with good hearty bread and a light fruity red wine.

 

Mortadella and green olives with italian flag

 

When buying Mortadella you should only buy enough to use in a short amount of time. Like all large sausages of this type, flavor and freshness quickly deteriorate once it has been cut, therefore buying what you need from a butcher or deli is the best way to guarantee that distinctive taste.

For health conscious individuals that are trying to avoid saturated fats and cholesterol there is good news. Mortadella, with its characteristic white pieces of fat is not as bad as you may think. The presence of this fat has scared some into avoiding mortadella, but the sausage is actually very good for you. Unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil comprises most of the fat content in Mortadella and cholesterol levels are equal to a similar serving of chicken. The sausage is also high in protein, not to mention that Mortadella di Bologna is protected by its PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designation, ensuring that authentic mortadella is free from fillers, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

 

Sliced Mortadella on the table

 

Mortadella may be just a lunchmeat to some, but it is very versatile, delicious and nutritious. In comparison to the over-processed and pre-packaged slices of baloney seen in supermarkets, it is healthfood. Mortadella di Bologna is just another example of an Italian delicacy that not only tastes good, but also is good for you.

 

By Justin Demetri

 

 

For further information:

Istituto per la Valorizzazione dei Salumi Italiani: www.salumi-italiani.it

Consorzio Mortadella di Bologna: www.mortadellabologna.com

 

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Comments

Tuesday, December 06TH, 2011 by Guest

yum!

Friday, December 30TH, 2011 by Guest

someone told me this was made from horse meat.  ....all these years I thought I was eating horse!

Thursday, March 08TH, 2012 by Guest

very helpful!

Tuesday, April 10TH, 2012 by Guest

If you've never tasted it, you have no right to comment on it!  

I grew up eating Mortadella and introduced my kids to it.  We all LOVE it.  My wife refuses to try it because of the large chucks of fat.  Her loss and more for the rest of us!

Saturday, January 19TH, 2013 by Guest

I was watching Lidia's Italy and she was making these incredible looking sandwhiches, Muffulettas's. They looked amazing and there were all these amazing Italian shops all over New Orleans when I would visit. I should have tried one. They say the Mediterranean is supposed to be great, but this looks so fattening. I can't imagine eating this daily but as a once in a while thing, maybe. I hear it's amazing. If you saw the sandwhich she made today, believe me, made me want one immediately.. so that's that. Looks great. It's pretty fattening though,no question.

Saturday, February 09TH, 2013 by Guest

Ooh I have never tried mortadella, only regular crappy boloney. Now I'm on a mission to try the real stuff :)