What Is Mortadella?

Allow us to introduce you to a most luxurious Italian cold cut.

mortadella, soft cheese, and crushed pistachioson bread
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Mortadella is often compared to bologna, but true lovers of Italian charcuterie know that its depth of flavor and texture are distinct from the classic American sandwich standard. Whether draping it over a pizza, tossing cubed pieces into a salad, or stacking it high on a sandwich or panino, mortadella can offer meat lovers a new treat to fall for. Read on to learn about the origins of mortadella, how it's different from bologna, and what to do with it.

What Is Mortadella, and What's It Made From?

Mortadella is a type of emulsified sausage made with pork meat, fat, pistachios, and black pepper. Emulsification, in this case, refers to a process of grinding high-quality, cooked pork extremely into a fine, silky texture. The sausage is then mixed with pieces of pork fat, toasted pistachios, and black pepper before it is set inside the casing.

When sliced, mortadella has a kind of marbled look. Mortadella originated in Bologna, Italy, and some of the highest quality mortadella still come from the city and the surrounding region of Emilia Romagna, which is also known for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Lambrusco wine.

What Does Mortadella Taste Like?

Mortadella is luscious and rich but also incredibly well-balanced. Because the meat is emulsified, when sliced thinly it's incredibly delicate as well, so it doesn't taste overwhelming or leave an unpleasant texture on the palate. The black peppercorns and pistachios offer a wonderfully unique texture that makes the experience of snacking on mortadella totally addictive.

Mortadella vs. Bologna

The American lunch meat we know as bologna is derived from Italian mortadella, but if you don't like bologna, don't give up on mortadella just yet. Italian mortadella, especially the kind made in the region of Emilia-Romagna, is made with high-quality, pork from well-cared-for pigs. Bologna, on the other hand, is often made from a blend of meats, including beef and pork.

Italian mortadella is usually made from the pig's cheek and back, whereas bologna is made from the leftover meat from a processed pig's skeleton. The name bologna actually comes from the Italian city of Bologna, where mortadella is made.

Where to Buy Mortadella

Some grocery store deli counters will carry mortadella. If yours doesn't, seek it out at any specialty Italian grocery store or sandwich shop, or find it online.

How to Store Mortadella

Once thinly sliced for sandwiches or charcuterie boards, mortadella will dry out but can be kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week. Thicker pieces will last about the same amount of time or can be frozen for longer storage.

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