What Is Mortadella?

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Everything you need to know about Mortadella

What is mortadella

Mortadella is an Italian cold cut made from cured pork meat with origins in Bologna. It is produced primarily in central and northern Italy.

Mortadella is an emulsified sausage that is made of cured pork which is composed of 15% of small cubes of pork fat. It is flavoured with spices like black pepper grains, whole or chopped pistachios, olives, or myrtle berries. 

Its signature white polka dot look is due to its fat content. This cured pork meaty with accents of pistachio and spice is a great addition to a charcuterie board. Moreover, you can stuff it into pasta and in sandwiches. Read on to learn more about this food delicacy and the wonderful world of Mortadella. 

What is Mortadella?

mortadella and other meats

Mortadella is a round, smooth-textured charcuterie delicacy that is similar to bologna sausage or baloney. It is a type of deli meat that is made from finely ground pork scraps and pork fat of pork neck fat. 

It is most commonly seasoned with black pepper grains, garlic, salt, pistachio and some spices like cardamom and cinnamon.

The pieces of pork fat give it telltale white polka dots. It is also prepared with green olives and pistachio. It is specially made from pure lean pork, but cheaper varieties may contain soya flour, beef, artificial food colouring and pig’s head. So it is recommended that read the label and check ingredient list before buying it. 

The true and more specific Mortadella would be the Mortadella Bologna, but it is made in specific Italian regions.

In pre-pepper times, it would be seasoned with myrtle berries.

However, the preparation history of Mortadella is believed to date back to Ancient Rome that shows that it has a long history. Its first written recipe dates back to 1600s. It had more fat content, and choice of spices for seasoning was different. 

How To Use Mortadella?

Mortadella is usually served up as thin slices, or in thick cubes. It is commonly served cold. You can serve this cold cut on antipasto boards, charcuterie board, and pizzas. It is also a perfect companion to hot Panini and cold sandwiches. 

 It makes a great addition to pasta and stuffed into tortellini or ravioli.

If you want to add some extra savoury flavour to Italian meatball recipes, Mortadella can be a great addition. You can also make a spread by blending it until a paste is formed.

In addition, Mortadella can be stirred into pasta sauces at the end of the cooking.

You can also chop it to make stuffing for chickens.

How Is Mortadella Made?

To prepare mortadella, special machines are used to finely chop the thin and thick pork meat. Cooked cubes of fat from the pig’s throat are added into the mix with a sprinkle of black pepper and salt. They also use pistachio, green olive and myrtle berries to give the meat its distinctive flavour.

This mixture is then filled into a large casing, and then it is hung in the oven or dry-air heaters for a few hours to 24 hours. It depends on the size of the sausages. The normal size of a single casing can be around 15kg One such casing weight 15Kg but some sausages can be upwards of 100kg! It is then cooled down with cold water as this allows it to stabilize.

This process lets the pork meat achieve the perfect texture and blend. When you cut it in thin slices, the slice will be uniform, smooth and pink in colour.

However, it hasn’t always been prepared this way. In ancient Rome era, its intensive labour process was involved in making it. The Romans would have used a mortar and pestle to grind their meat down!

Italian antipasto

What are the health benefits?

There are several health benefits that Mortadella has: 

  • It is rich in protein and contains non-essential amino acids and essential amino acids. 
  • It helps to repairs damaged muscles and builds muscles due to its rich source of protein.
  • It is also beneficial for your nervous system as it contains all essential and non-essential amino acids that help synthesize neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin.
  • It has potential benefits for your immune system due to its high protein value.
  • Moreover, it is a rich source of iron that helps make RBC, combat muscle weakness that is associated with anaemia and fatigue.
  • It is good for brittle and thin nails and hair as it is a rich source of iron.
  • Mortadella also provides vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6 that is beneficial for the nervous system, help to improve mood, good for skin and energy metabolism.
  • The vitamin B content has benefits for pregnancy, such as prevention of pregnancy-related to physical abnormities and developmental defects.

Mortadella vs. Other Meats

Mortadella is a cold cut cooked sausage that is made from pork meat and its fats. It requires a specific process to make this great Italian delicacy. It can be used for cooking in other dishes too. However, the recipes of other meats are different from this wonderful deli meat.

FAQ's on Mortadella

What does mortadella taste like?

It has a mild pork flavour with accents of spice and pistachio. But its flavour is not as strong as bacon. But its taste is not like pork loin and pork chop. Moreover, Mortadella has a hearty texture and thicker mouthfeel.


Can you eat mortadella raw?

As it is served as a cold cut, so you can simply enjoy it. But it is common to fry its slices before they are eaten or lay slices in the sandwich. There is nothing wrong in eating its raw slices as The Sopranos star Tony Soprano did with capicola.

What we prefer to do us to use it on pieces, forming little mortadella mountains, that go wonderfully crispy during the pizza cooking process. 

What kind of meat is mortadella?

Mortadella is an Italian sausage that is made of finely ground cured pork meat. It also has 15% of small cubes of pork’s neck fa

What does mortadella mean in English?

Want to know the Mortadella meaning in English? According to Merriam Webster, it is a smoked sausage that is made with pork and pork fat, seasoned with spices and pistachio and eaten cold.

Why is it called mortadella?

In the 1600s, it was made with finely ground pork meat that is crushed in a mortar. This was then cooked and seasoned with myrtle and spices. The name mortadella is derived from the Latin word “mortarium” which means mortar.

mortar and pestle
Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!