Mortadella, a culinary gem in the world of Italian cuisine, has a history as rich and captivating as its flavor. With its roots tracing back to Ancient Roman times, this cold cut has transcended generations and remains a cherished icon on dinner tables and sandwiches to this day. Join us as we take a stroll through the world of mortadella, from its production process to savoring it at its finest.
What Exactly Is Mortadella?
At its core, mortadella is a blend of mixed ground pork infused with a blend of spices and herbs. Key ingredients include myrtle, garlic, and pepper, all meticulously chosen to create a unique and refined taste. But what truly makes mortadella special and different from other deli meats is the use of small cubes of pork fat, evenly sprinkled throughout the mixture. These tiny morsels of fat not only add moisture and flavor but also lend that signature spotted interior, giving mortadella its distinctive look. Pistachios sometimes join the mix.
The Production Process
It all begins with the meticulous mixing of ground pork, ice, and a selection of seasonings. This carefully crafted mixture is then minced to create a homogenous blend and tossed with small cubes of pork fat. Subsequently, the mixture is delicately packed into carefully selected casings. Traditional methods often involve slow cooking in brick ovens, a process that can span from several hours to a few days, depending on the mortadella’s size. Once the internal temperature reaches 158 degrees Fahrenheit and the consistency is just right, the mortadella is treated to a refreshing “cold shower” and left to rest in a cooling cell.
Taste & Texture
Mortadella’s ideal texture should be firm and compact. It has a light pink hue, adorned with white specks of evenly distributed fat, creating that nice spotted interior. As you slice into this deli meat, the even distribution of lardon (the small cubes of fat) should remain intact. With each thin slice, mortadella reveals its exquisite quality and fragrant aroma. It boasts a subtly sweet flavor accentuated by hints of spice.
Mortadella isn’t just rich in taste; it has a historical legacy as well. Its story dates all the way back to Ancient Rome, where it was known as “murtatum.” The Archeological Civil Museum of Bologna features a stone from the Roman Imperial Era believed to depict the earliest record of mortadella. One side showcases seven pigs led to pasture, while the other portrays a mortar and pestle. Given the Roman tradition of using mortars to finely chop and knead pork with salt and spices, “mortadella” likely evolved from “murtamum,” meaning “meat finely chopped in a mortar.”
Consortium & PGI Status
To safeguard this rich heritage, the production of mortadella is closely regulated by the Mortadella Bologna Consortium. In 1998, mortadella earned the prestigious Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, a badge of authenticity. To maintain this designation, ingredients and production methods must rigorously adhere to a set of criteria, covering aspects such as production area, raw materials and cuts of meat, processing techniques, and stringent quality controls. The geographical scope of certified Mortadella Bologna PGI includes the Italian regions of Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont, Lombardy, Vento, Tuscany, Marche, Lazio, and Trentino. When crafting Mortadella Bologna PGI, only natural flavors are permitted to enhance its taste. Pepper, for instance, must be in the form of grains, keeping things pure. The color of mortadella is also a telling sign of its quality. The lean part, sourced from pork shoulder, must exhibit a pink hue, while the lard, sourced from bacon, must be evenly distributed in a pristine white.
Versatility & Serving Suggestions
Mortadella finds its way into various culinary creations. It often graces antipasto platters, where its savory and aromatic qualities complement an array of flavors. Mortadella also shines as a star ingredient in sandwiches, providing a rich and textured filling. You may even find it as a topping on pizza or in pasta dishes.
When serving Mortadella, start by cutting from the most pointed end, as the bottom’s round part is typically the softest due to the migration of soluble fat components. Cut the slices extra thin and uniformly with precision, adhering closely to the blade for a smooth surface. When arranging the slices, handle them with care so they don’t get crushed, especially when wrapping them in paper. Alternatively, you can cut Mortadella into cubes and toss them directly into dishes for added flavor and texture.
Our Featured Mortadellas
Explore some of the finest mortadellas we have available:
511026 – Levoni Mortadella with Truffle – 2/4 KG
Levoni has been producing mortadella for more than 100 years. Their signature recipe calls for fine cuts of pork and the finest ingredients. In this unique and savory new delicacy, the balanced, natural flavors of Mortadella are enhanced by the addition of black truffle flakes. Silky and rich, the gold standard of mortadella is lovely as part of an antipasti platter or layered into gourmet sandwiches.
511019 – Vantia Mortadella with Pistachio – Quarter – 15/12 OZ
Vantia Mortadella follows the traditional and authentic production process. Delicate accents from selected spices (salt, white pepper, peppercorns, anise, and coriander) and pistachio are gently blended into the meat and roasted in this unhurried process. The unique flavor of Vantia Mortadella is enhanced through slow roasting in traditional brick ovens. While we carry Vantia Mortadella in traditional round and flattened “logs”, we also sell it in retail-size triangles: perfect for shoppers to take home and use as a culinary ingredient.
510089 – Veroni Mortadella Gigante – 1/100 LB
Gigantic mortadellas are a big hit in Italy and are quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. In the 1930s, Veroni was the first in Italy to make these large mortadellas. In fact, since 1996, Veroni has held the Guinness World Record for the largest mortadella, weighing an astonishing 26 tons. These huge mortadellas are not only visually striking but also incredibly tasty. Their larger size means they need more time to cook, which actually makes them more flavorful. While we cannot import their multi-ton Mortadellas for FDA reasons, we can import their 100LB. Mortadellas on special order!