Home Articles What Is Mortadella? (Everything You Need to Know)

What Is Mortadella? (Everything You Need to Know)

In Italian charcuterie, mortadella is a revered delicacy. Of course, you may be asking, “What is mortadella?!”

Don’t worry. I asked that same question not too long ago. 

What Is Mortadella? (Everything You Need to Know) featuring Block of Mortadella With Slices on a Wooden Cutting Board, Lettuce Background

Hailing from the culinary heritage of Bologna, mortadella is an iconic cured meat. 

Though not as well-known as something like bologna, it’s well-loved by those who’ve tried it. 

Over the years, it’s captured the hearts and palates of food enthusiasts worldwide. 

But what is mortadella, and what makes it so unique? 

Keep reading to find that answer for yourself. 

What Is Mortadella? 

Mortadella is a type of Italian cured meat. Specifically, it’s a large, seasoned sausage made from finely ground pork. 

It originates in Bologna, Italy, and is highly regarded as a classic Italian delicacy. 

Producers create mortadella from specific cuts of pork. (Such as the shoulder or thigh.)

Manufacturers then mix it with cubes of pork fat, spices, and sometimes pistachios. Finally, they stuff the mixture into a casing and slowly cook or smoke it. 

Mortadella has a distinctive flavor and appearance and smooth texture. 

It looks a bit like bologna covered in white spots. Though, it comes in thinner slices.  

People enjoy it in sandwiches, antipasti platters, or as an ingredient in many recipes. 

Giant Mortadella Sandwich with Cheese, Tomatoes, Sauce, Basil, and Four Slices of Bread on a White Plate

What Does Mortadella Taste Like? 

Mortadella is pork and tastes like pork. Only it is milder and more delicate than most pork products. 

The various ingredients used to season it will also affect its flavor. 

Besides pistachios, mortadella includes other seasonings. Black peppercorns are customary, as are cloves, myrtle berries, nutmeg, salt, etc.

Some brands even include cinnamon and garlic. 

These seasonings will, of course, enrich the mortadella’s final flavor. The thickness of the particular cut will also determine its taste. 

Thinner slices of mortadella have a more robust seasoning flavor. Thicker portions taste meatier. 

Types of Mortadella 

Selecting mortadella requires more than asking for it at the deli counter. You’ll have to choose between three types. 

Mortadella Bologna

If you want classic mortadella, opt for mortadella bologna. (The original variety of mortadella that first appeared in Bologna.) 

It’s a traditional mixture of pork, seasonings, and fat cubes. 

Certain areas are required by law to produce this variety of mortadella. 

These include: 

  • Lombardy
  • Marche
  • Emilia-Romagna
  • Tuscany
  • Lazio
  • Veneto
  • Trentino

Mortadella di Campotosto

This type of mortadella comes from Abruzzo, in the Campotosto province. 

Instead of fat cubes, this variety features a large stick of lard in its center. 

Typical seasonings include pepper, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Manufacturers also flavor the meat with white wine. 

Mortadella di Prato

Mortadella di Prato is a sweeter variety of mortadella. Manufacturers flavor it with an ingredient called Alchermes, an ancient Italian liqueur. 

You’ll find it most often in the Prato province of Italy. There are also manufacturers in Quarrata, Montale, and Agliana. 

Slices of Mortadella on a Wooden Cutting Board, Garnished with Lettuce

Mortadella vs. Bologna (What’s the Difference?)

Besides its many white spots, mortadella looks similar to bologna. 

Both cured sausage products originated in Bologna, Italy. 

So, what makes them different? 

They have different production methods. 

Those white spots covering mortadella are fat cubes that “break up” the meat. Some varieties also contain pistachios, which are visible in the slices.

Bologna also contains cubes of fat. However, its fat mixes with the meat to form a single, unblemished cut. It does not have pistachios, either. 

Pistachios aren’t the only thing mortadella has that bologna doesn’t.

Mortadella features various extra (and extra yummy) ingredients. These include pepper, cinnamon, garlic, cloves, and more. 

By comparison, bologna is pretty mild – even bland. It doesn’t contain as many seasonings and spices. 

How to Use Mortadella 

You can use mortadella in many ways. However, charcuterie boards and sandwiches are the two most popular. 

For charcuterie boards, you’ll want thin-sliced mortadella. If you’re using it as lunchmeat, thicker slices are often preferable. 

Here are a few other ways to enjoy mortadella: 

  • Antipasto platters or skewers
  • Bruschetta
  • Fried mortadella
  • Mortadella mousse (a pâté-like spread)
  • Paninis
  • Meatballs

You can also use mortadella in various everyday recipes. It tastes incredible on pizza or pasta. 

You can even dice it up and toss it into your salads! 

Where to Buy Mortadella 

Sometimes, you can find mortadella in the fresh deli section of your local grocery store. 

However, if your grocery store doesn’t carry it, look for a nearby Italian specialty store. Local sandwich shops and online retailers often sell it, as well. 

Block of Mortadella Vacuum-Sealed in a Bag

How to Store Mortadella 

As with most lunch meats, mortadella keeps well in the fridge. 

Wrap the meat in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. You can also place it in sealed Ziploc bags with the air pressed out. 

It should last for up to a week in the refrigerator. 

You can also store thick cuts in the freezer. (Thin-cut mortadella doesn’t do well in the freezer.) 

Wrap the slices or put them in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Store them in the fridge for up to 3 months.

What Is Mortadella?

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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