Home » Food Information » What Is Mortadella? Facts and Flavor Profile.

What Is Mortadella? Facts and Flavor Profile.

What is mortadella? In this article, we will look into the origins and composition of mortadella. We’ll also tell you where to find it, how to store it, and how to use it in your cooking.

If you’re curious about this ingredient, discover everything about it here.

Slices of Mortadella Rolled on top of wooden cutting board.

What Is Mortadella?

It is an Italian sausage with a distinct appearance, flavor, and texture.

This beloved delicacy has a rich history.

Mortadella traces its origins in Bologna, Italy.

The main ingredient of this sausage is high-quality pork meat.

It also has pork fat cubes, whole or chopped pistachios, black pepper, and myrtle berries.

To make mortadella, people finely mince the pork until it becomes a smooth paste.

And then they add the other ingredients. Including pork fat cubes creates the sausage’s distinct white “polka dot” appearance.

This emulsified sausage comes in a large casing, so it is not your ordinary sausage.

Mortadella usually has a diameter of around 12 to 14 inches.

The biggest one is 18 inches, as wide as an extra-large pizza.

People steam mortadella until it is fully cooked—this smoking process results in a tender texture and flavorful taste.

Italian specialty grocers or online markets typically carry it.

You may look for it in those marketplaces if your local grocery store doesn’t have mortadella.

Once purchased, it is important to store the sausage properly.

Keep it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days in an airtight container to maximize its shelf life.

What Does Mortadella Taste Like?

Mortadella has a rich, fatty flavor.

This flavor profile is due to its composition, which includes cured pork with at least 15% pork fat cubes.

The seasonings, such as black pepper and myrtle berries, also add complexity.

Other ingredients, like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and garlic, provide depth.

Additionally, the pistachios contribute to the sausage’s unique texture and nutty flavor.

Mortadella has a hearty texture, like bologna. But it does not have the rubbery consistency of lesser-quality sausages.

Once cooked, the spices and pistachios inside become more subdued. They blend well with the savory but mild pork flavor.

Mortadella also has some subtle smoky notes due to the smoking process it undergoes.

It adds an authentic Italian touch to dishes, including sandwiches and pasta dishes.

Variations Of Mortadella

There are several variations of this sausage; let’s explore some of these.

Mortadella di Bologna

This Bologna is the classic variety of mortadella. This cooked sausage commonly comes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

It is a mixture of pork studded with cubes of fat and seasoning.

Producers may use different proportions of meat to fat and spices.

That said, you may find different varieties of mortadella di bologna.

Under European Union Law, people must only make this kind in specific Italian regions.

Mortadella di Campotoso

Mortadella di Campotosto hails from the province of Campotosto in Abruzzo. It gets its flavor from salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and white wine.

From the outside, this type looks the same as other varieties. But, once you slice it, you’ll see what sets it apart.

Mortadella di Campotosto has a large spot of fat in the middle as a big stick of lard runs through its center.

Mortadella di Prato

As the name suggests, this sausage comes from the Italian province of Prato. Some come from the municipalities of Agliana, Montale, and Quarrata.

Aside from the regular seasonings in mortadella, this variety contains alchermes.

Alchermes is an ancient Italian liqueur that offers a sweet flavor.

Mortadella di Cavallo

This type of Italian cold cut comes from Rome.

Unlike mortadella bologna that uses pork meat, mortadella di cavallo uses horse meat.

That said, it has a slightly sweet taste reminiscent of beef.

What Is Mortadella Made Of

The traditional ingredients of mortadella sausage are as follows:

  • pork meat
  • cubes of pork neck fat
  • black peppercorns
  • pistachio nuts
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • coriander

Producers finely grind or emulsify the meat first. Then, they add the nuts and spices.

Some recipes may incorporate caseinate or dried milk powder. Most varieties include nitrite as an additive.

Note that cheaper sausages may have more rind emulsion and fat and less lean shoulder meat.

In other countries, this sausage may also contain peppers and olives.

Mortadella Vs Bologna

While both are types of emulsified sausages, they differ in texture.

Mortadella contains visible cubes of fat and pistachios. That said, it has a more complex flavor and texture.

Unlike mortadella, bologna is completely uniform in texture. It lacks the white polka dot appearance.

These sausages also share some common ingredients and spices. The traditional process for mortadella calls for pork only. But bologna can have other meats.

Aside from that, bologna also contains more preservatives than the traditional kind.

How To Eat Mortadella

This Italian sausage is a versatile ingredient. You can serve it on a charcuterie board with other thinly sliced meats.

Eat it alongside cheeses, fruit, bread, and condiments.

This cured meat makes for a delicious cold sandwich or hot panini; you can add it to cheesy pasta dishes.

You may also stuff them into ravioli or tortellini. Or use them to make meatballs for an extra burst of flavor. Better yet, add it to your list of pizza toppings.

Blend it with cream and soft cheese to make a mousse. This spread pairs well with toasted bread. Lastly, you may slice it into thicker cubes and serve it during aperitivo time.

What Is Mortadella Called In America?

The American version of mortadella is bologna. Baloney or bologna is a similar sausage made with similar ingredients and methods. But it has a smoother texture as there are no visible fat and pistachio nuts chunks.

Is Mortadella Healthy?

This Italian sausage is a great protein, iron, phosphorus, and zinc source. But mortadella is still processed meat, so it is high in fat and sodium. That said, eating mortadella in moderation as part of a balanced diet is best.

Mortadella Meaning?

The word mortadella most likely comes from the Latin “mortarium,” meaning mortar. Back then, people used mortar to make pork paste in mortadella, hence the name.


Mortadella is a unique and flavorful Italian sausage. This emulsified sausage uses high-quality pork. It has flavorings like chopped pistachios, black pepper, and myrtle berries.

Due to the speck of pork fat cubes, it has a distinct white “polka dot” look.

It has a hearty texture, rich, fatty flavor, and subtle smoky notes. Several varieties are available, each with a unique flavor and texture. You can add it to charcuterie boards, sandwiches, and meatball recipes.

More Articles

Filed under
Food Information
Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
pinterest instagram instagram

Get new recipes and tips via email
when you subscribe!

Have a comment? I love hearing from you!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

As seen in:

Eating WellmashededibleWomans WorldTasting TableHomes and Gardens
Back to the Top