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How Mortadella is made: Origins, Ingredients and Recipes

It is pink, dotted with white, fragrant, tasty, and inviting. As soon as we think of it, we can’t wait for it to end up, freshly sliced, in two slices of warm bread, for a delicious sandwich to be bitten into greedily.

What we alternatively call Mortadella or Bologna is more correctly called “Mortadella Bologna IGP” and is a product with a protected geographical identity: protected by the laws of the European Union, it is one of the great protagonists of Italian charcuterie, celebrated and loved in Italy and abroad and is even the protagonist of a film by Monicelli.

How is mortadella produced and what is its history?

The name mortadella derives from the Latin “farcimen murtatum” or “myrtatum”, which in ancient times indicated a tasty sausage well-seasoned with leaves and berries of myrtle.

The most famous sausage is the Bolognese, sprinkled with peppercorns and, in a particularly tasty variant, also with green pistachios.

Sixty percent of the sausage is made from lean pork, obtained from the shoulder and back, while the remaining 40% is made from the fat of the cheek.

Each salumificio has its own methods and its own secrets, but they all pay great attention to the delicate operation of baking in dry air ovens by specialized artisans called “stufini”.

After its “sauna”, the sausage is subjected to a sort of cold shower, and then it is left to rest and cool, until it reaches room temperature.

The casing, nowadays almost always artificial, was traditionally made with the bladder of the pig. Mortadella is packaged in cylindrical shapes which can weigh up to 50 kilograms (110 pounds).

Generally, however, the ones found in delicatessens and supermarkets weigh from 12 to 14 kilos. The best mortadella, made of pure pork, bears an S on the stamp and is the only one which, since 1998, can boast the title “Mortadella Bologna”, recognized as a protected geographical indication (IGP).

The characteristics of mortadella are established by the Bologna Mortadella Consortium, founded in 2001 to unite and protect the major producers, and approved by the European Union.

The composition of mortadella (which is not the same as original Mortadella Bologna!) can also include meats other than pork. In fact, there are also those marked SB, which means mixed pork and beef and SE which means mixed pork and horse meat.

How many calories does mortadella have and how many types are there?

Calories present in mortadella vary according to the variety of ingredients, but these calories are never, unfortunately, as few as you may like! Mortadella made of pure pork has 317 calories per 100 grams, whereas when it is made of pork mixed with beef it has 388 calories per 100grams.

Therefore, we must eat it sparingly if we are on a diet and limit its consumption if we want to have a light meal: it is certainly not a cured meat that we suggest you eat in large quantities.

At a nutritional level you should pay attention to the quantity of lipids and to the high percentage of sodium, which mean it is not recommended for people suffering from hypertension. On the other hand, this pink salami has good quantities of vitamins B1, B2 and Niacin and it has a good percentage of mineral salts such as zinc, iron and phosphate. It is also naturally rich in protein.

Today, thanks to the technology used during the production process, mortadella can last for a long time, even though, shortly after it is sliced, its aromatic characteristics voluptuous flavors, will quickly dissipate.

Besides the Bolognese, there are other types of mortadella: for example, Roman mortadella, with its typical rectangular, flattened shape, dark colour, is well larded and very tasty.

There is also mortadella from Abruzzo, smaller and harder, made of a fine mixture of fat and lean meat, again from pork, and characterized by a parallelepiped of fat in the center. These regional variants are less easy to find and have a more distinctive flavor.

Recipes with Mortadella

In order to taste this cured meat at its best, the simplest and quickest solution is undoubtedly a tasty sandwich in which it is the protagonist. You decide if you prefer it sliced very thin, like a veil, or a little thicker, for a more substantial bite. But let’s not stop there.

Mortadella Bologna IGP can be paired with many vegetables, for example in a traditional Italian appetizer, with other cold cuts, good bread and the classic “giardiniera” of pickled vegetables.

But our pink salami can also be the fundamental ingredient of many traditional recipes, or a decisive element in creative specialties.

Used raw, either thinly sliced or diced, or cooked in the fillings of fresh pasta or roasts, it is a valuable ally that immediately gives a special twist to each of our recipes.

Zucchini, ricotta and mortadella croquettes

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 150gr of mortadella
  • 300gr of zucchini
  • 300gr ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs and 2 yolks
  • A sprig of parsley
  • One clove of garlic
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A handful of breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Frying oil
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Cook the zucchini for a few minutes in a pan with a glass of water and some oil. Put them through a food processor together with the ricotta cheese.
  2. Transfer everything into a bowl and add the mortadella coarsely chopped with your hands. Stir in the 2 egg yolks and 2 soup spoons of grated Parmesan cheese.
  3. Season with the chopped garlic and parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Using the mixture, form flat patties. Dip them in flour, then in beaten eggs and finally in breadcrumbs.
  5. Fry the croquettes in plenty of hot oil and serve immediately.

Polenta and mortadella skewers

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 200gr polenta
  • 200gr of mortadella
  • 200gr fontina cheese
  • 50gr parmesan cheese
  • 30gr of breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper
  • Long skewers


  1. For the polenta: use cold leftover polenta or cook it according to package directions, then transfer it to a bowl and let it cool
  2. Dice the fontina cheese and the mortadella. Cut the polenta into large squares.
  3. Take the skewers and thread through them, alternating a cube of polenta, a cube of fontina cheese and a cube of mortadella.
  4. Once all the skewers are ready, dip them in beaten egg and breadcrumbs.
  5. Fry them in hot oil and serve piping hot.

Fried mozzarellas covered with pistachio cream and mortadella

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 200gr of mortadella cut into thick slices
  • 1 jar of salted pistachio cream
  • 500gr of mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 20ml milk
  • Flour and breadcrumbs, enough for the breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Seed oil for frying


  1. Start by cutting the slices of mortadella into strips, then set them aside
  2. Cut the mozzarella into four pieces and place them in a colander to remove excess water.
  3. Prepare three bowls: one for the flour, one for the eggs beaten with salt, pepper and milk, and one for the breadcrumbs.
  4. Dip the mozzarella pieces first in the flour, making sure to cover them completely, then in the eggs and finally in the breadcrumbs.
  5. Put plenty of oil on the stove for frying and when it has reached the optimum temperature, immerse 3 or 4 mozzarella pieces at a time.
  6. Fry them for about 2 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Once all the mozzarella pieces are ready, start arranging your dishes.
  8. Arrange a little pistachio cream as a base, then the mozzarellas and on top of them more pistachio cream ending with the slices of mortadella.

Conclusion about how Mortadella is made

We have learned everything about Mortadella Bologna IGP: this cooked sausage, with its unique recipe is made exclusively with pure pork meat.

Its characteristic cylindrical or oval shape and its special pink color make it one of the most beloved cured meats of the great Italian charcuterie and its intense and slightly spicy aroma make it recognizable among thousands, just from its fragrance.

It is one of the many typical Italian products that have made Italian gastronomy renowned in the world.

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