BeanScene Magazine

Marvellous mortadella

From the April 2015 issue.
Marvellous mortadella

Light pink and smooth in texture, mortadella has become a much loved favourite among the cold cuts available here in Australia.

Mortadella is a type of large Italian sausage, typically made of pork, which is ground into a fine, paste-like consistency. It is often made from what is considered to be the less desirable cuts of meat, in an effort to ensure nothing goes to waste. The end result is something truly special, with a delicate taste and aroma.

Mortadella originates in the beautiful Bologna – known as the educated city for being the site of one of the oldest universities in the world, the red city for its characteristic red tiled roofs and the fat city for its amazing culinary offering.

Bologna is part of the Emilia-Romagna region, widely regarded as Italy’s food bowl. The region isn’t just the birthplace of mortadella, it is also home to two of Italy’s most famous gastronomic specialties – Parmigano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma.

Mortadella is believed to date back to Roman times. By the Middle Ages, it was also revered in various parts of Europe. Although, back then it was a food reserved mainly for the rich and noble. Ancient mortadella recipes are believed to have had even more spices than what is used today, making it quite expensive and valuable.

That which is made in Bologna or approved surrounding areas, according to strict methods and regulations bears the coveted IGP label – Protected Geographical Indication – and can proudly wear the Mortadella di Bologna IGP title.

So revered is mortadella in Bologna that two festivals are held in its honour. The International Festival of Mortadella takes place in Zola Predosa, just outside of Bologna each September; while Mortadella Bò takes place in Bologna’s historic centre during October.

Thankfully, due to a number of high quality Australian producers, there is no need to travel all the way to Bologna to enjoy a tasty slice of mortadella, made the traditional Italian way.

If you step inside a delicatessen or supermarket anywhere in Australia, chances are there will be a wide selection of mortadella waiting.

Mortadella is cooked during the production process. After the meat is formed into a paste, chunks of lard, often that derived from the pig’s neck, are added to enhance the flavour of the end product. Mortadella can be flavoured using various spices or additions like pistachio, olives, chilli, pepper or myrtle berries. Once the mixture is placed into casings, it is cooked or heat cured.

Mortadella can be made in any size. In Bologna, there are some producers that specialise in making oversized mortadella weighing hundreds of kilos.

Selecting high quality meat, and the cooking process, are the most crucial stages of producing mortadella. When made in the traditional way, mortadella is free of colours and preservatives.

As lard is added after the meat has been ground, the pieces retain their shape and result in the mortadella being dotted with large white specks. But don’t be fooled by these visible chunks. Despite its outward appearance, mortadella is not that high in fat at all, but is quite high in protein.

Mortadella should be sliced thinly and is perfect inside a sandwich or panino. Or, cut it into cubes for a wonderful addition to an antipasto platter.

Once mortadella has been sliced, it quickly loses flavour and moisture so is best eaten within a few days. 

Australian producers
Bertocchi Smallgoods, Borgo Smallgoods, Casalingo Smallgoods, Del Basso Smallgoods, D’Orsogna, Montecatini Smallgoods, Primo Smallgoods, Princi Smallgoods, Rossi’s Smallgoods and Tibald

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