The etymology of the term “Mortadella” dates back to Roman times. According to some scholars, it appears to be related to the word mortarium, to signify the mortar used to grind up pork meat or perhaps to the word murtada, meaning seasoned with myrtle, a typical Mediterranean plant. Mortadella Bologna is the most famous sausage of Bologna’s culinary tradition, yet its historic origins cannot be traced back before the 16th century. There have been numerous literary and historic references to the product going back as far as the late Renaissance period.
In more recent times, the tradition of the characteristic mortadella has been preserved and spread from its original area of production to the surrounding areas, following the diffusion of foodstuffs and the expansion of relative commerce.
Mortadella Bologna is made from a mixture of pork meats obtained from striated muscle tissue that has been ground finely, small squares of pork fat, salt, and pepper (either whole or in pieces). The meat is progressively refined and homogenised and ground ever more finely at temperatures no higher than +1° C. The mixture is packed in a natural or synthetic casing and subjected to a prolonged cooking treatment in special dry ovens at temperatures no lower than 70° C. The sausages are then rinsed with cold water and placed in cooling chambers to permit the product the “stabilise”. The product has an oval or cylindrical shape with a compact texture. Upon slicing, Mortadella Bologna appears smooth and uniformly pink and there must be small, pearly-white squares of animal fat making up at least 15% of the total area. It has an aromatic scent and delicate flavour, without any hint of smoking.
The product may be marketed by measure or weight, vacuum packed or packaged in modified atmosphere, whole or sliced; packaging, slicing and portioning must take place exclusively in the production zone. Mortadella di Bologna may be consumed in various ways: freshly sliced with warm bread or crackers, cut into cubes as an ideal snack, as a condiment for pasta or in salads; it also combines exceptionally with fresh vegetables and cheese.