Who does not love a good deli sandwich? I know the deli section is the first place I visit in the grocery store! Ham, Turkey, cheese are all common deli options to choose from but if you really want to elevate your sandwich pallet, you have to try mortadella, bologna’s better looking and bolder tasting cousin. While some may confuse the two meats, there are some very distinct differences between the two.
The main difference between mortadella and bologna is noticeable as soon as you look it at them. The ingredients in mortadella are heterogeneous, meaning they are not all mixed together. This why the fat chucks and pistachios are visible among the finely grounded pork. Meanwhile, the fatty components of bologna are blended with the rest of the ingredients to form one emulsified, homogeneous mixture. Additionally, mortadella is only made with the highest quality pork, whereas bologna can be made with an assortment of meat, including pork, beef, chicken, and turkey. This also makes mortadella more expensive than its emulsified counterpart.
While bologna has long been a favorite among Americans, with a bolder flavor and far more versatility, its not hard to figure out why mortadella is quickly growing in popularity. Keep reading if you would like to learn more about this Italian delicacy and the many dishes it can transform. As an avid sandwich eater, trust me when I say, you will never look at bologna the same way after trying mortadella.
What is Mortadella?
Mortadella is an emulsified, cured Italian sausage made with finely ground pork, pistachios, myrtle berries, salt, and peppercorn. Additional ingredients like olives and spices like garlic can be added at the cook’s discretion. Its distinctive polka dot appearance comes from its key ingredient, pork neck fat cubes, which must make up 15% of the mortadella’s weight. It is this cubed fat that adds to its unique flavor.
How is Mortadella Made?
This is not something that you can whip up in your kitchen. In fact, only certain Italian regions are even permitted to make the meat and call it mortadella. To obtain the perfect taste and texture, mortadella is made through a very specific process.
Step 1: Finely ground cured chunk pork pieces into a pink paste
Step 2: Mix in ingredients like pistachios and myrtle berries
Step 3: Add pork neck fat cubes
Step 4: Season mixture with spices
Step 5: Stuff into casing
Step 6: Hang in the oven and slow cook for 24 hours. (Cook time depends on weight)
Step 7: Cool with water.
Only the highest quality ingredients are used in this process.
What does Mortadella Taste Like?
Mortadella is often described as rich, hearty, and flavorful. It boasts a very prominent spiced pork flavor. The various components provide a layered flavoring, without any one spice overshadowing the other. When you first taste mortadella, you immediately recognize the pork, which is enhanced by the subtle seasoning. The pistachios provide a mellow nutty flavor that you cannot get with other deli meats. It is a far superior taste to the bland flavor of bologna.
How to Use Mortadella
Mortadella is a versatile deli meat and can be eaten hot or old. While it is commonly used in sandwiches, mortadella it can also be found in many Italian dishes:
- Pasta Dishes
You can also add mortadella to just about any dish you can think of, including macaroni, pizza, and frittatas. It is also a nice addition to any charcuterie board. Many people even enjoy eating by itself, either in thin slices or thick chunks.
Can You Substitute Bologna for Mortadella?
While there is nothing quite like the taste and texture of mortadella, bologna is the closest substitute. However, if you are going to use bologna as an alternative, it is best to use a high-quality pork bologna. If you use a cheaper meat, it is likely to be made from an assortment of meats and animal parts, which will produce a far different flavor and consistency from mortadella.
Is Mortadella Healthier Than Bologna?
As with most deli meats, neither mortadella nor bologna are particularly healthy. Unsurprisingly, both meats have high fat content. However, mortadella is the slightly healthier choice since you will have a better idea of what you are ingesting. There are strict requirements for mortadella production. This ensures that only the best quality ingredients are utilized.
Bologna, on the other hand, is often made from an assortment of ingredients that may not even be specified. Whereas mortadella is strictly made from high quality pork, bologna can be made from different meats and various animal parts that are not specified on the ingredient list.
Mortadella also contains lower cholesterol levels and higher protein content than bologna.
Can You Eat Mortadella Raw?
Since the process for making mortadella involves cooking the meat (on average from 8 to 24 hours) until it reaches an internal temperature of 158 degrees Fahrenheit and then safely cooling it you’re actually not consuming raw mortadella. It is most commonly served as a cold cut on a sandwich or charcuterie board. So go ahead and cut a slice or a cube and enjoy this gastronomic Italian delight.
How to Cut Mortadella?
While it may seem that cutting mortadella would be similar to cutting other cured meats such as salami and bologna, a few key differences require that careful attention is paid to this process.
If you’ll be purchasing the meat and cutting it at home its recommended to follow these steps as a guide:
- Begin your cut with the most pointed end. The pointed end is generally firmer due to the migration of fats to the bottom of the meat while hanging.
- Remove only the amount of rope necessary to be able to cut the appropriate portion of meat that you’ll using or storing.
- Next, remove part of the casing by running a knife around the meat in 5cm increments to avoid drying it out.
If using an electric slicer, generally, a blade diameter of 35cm or more should be used to ensure that a full slice can be made. It’s important to measure the diameter of the Mortadella to ensure that the proper blade size is used. The thickness setting should be set to a 1 or as thin as possible to achieve almost a transparent slice.
Slices can be arranged on a sheet of wax paper, covered with a food grade polyethylene film, and then folded to store.
If its cubes you’re desiring:
- Slice a wider piece of mortadella with a sharp knife between 1-1.5 cm thick.
- Lay the thick round circle on a piece of wax paper and slice vertically into the meat creating strips the same thickness as the meat, around 1-1.5cm in thickness.
- Next turn the meat 90 degrees and make perpendicular cuts of around 1.1.5cm thick to create the cubes.
- Arrange the cubes in a bowl or on a dish and insert a toothpick into each.
Do You Store Mortadella Differently Than Bologna?
Stored in the Refrigerator
Both mortadella and bologna must be stored in the refrigerator, even if they are not sliced yet. Unopened mortadella has a longer shelf life than its more counterpart. Unopened, it can last up to a month if properly stored. Bologna will only keep for 1 to 2 weeks at the most.
Once opened, both bologna and mortadella should be tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic foil to prevent air from penetrating. They both should be consumed within 5 to 7 days to ensure the best taste and texture.
The meat has gone bad if any of the following signs are present:
- Strong order
- Slimy or harden texture
If mortadella or bologna exhibit any of these traits, it must be discarded immediately.
Stored in the Freezer
Mortadella and bologna can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. For best results, the following process should be followed when freezing:
Step 1: Slice the meat so that you only thaw out what you are going to eat. (You should not refreeze mortadella once you defrost it as will impact its quality)
Step 2: Place the slices on wax or parchment paper.
Step 3: Cover the slices with food grade polyethylene film and fold the paper several times to remove the air from in in between the paper and the film
Step 4: Placed the wrapped slices in a freezer bag, making sure there is no air in the bag.
These simple steps will ensure the mortadella stays fresh for as long as possible. Once the mortadella is defrosted, it should be eaten within 2 days.
If you enjoy bologna, I highly recommend you give mortadella a try. Personally, my sandwich pallet has never been that same! It can not only transform your sandwich, but also enhance many other dishes you enjoy.