Mary Ann's Blog

Mortadella: Please Don’t Call It Baloney

Mortadella is not baloney. It is a key product of Bologna, Italy; however, and it is a cooked finely ground pork product studded with cubes of fat and often flavored with peppercorns or pistachio nuts.

Mortadella must contain 60% pure lean loin or shoulder meat and 40% fat. It is flavored with wine, black pepper, and spices such as cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, ginger and star anise. Sometimes pistachio nuts are added -- but never in Bologna.

The pork paste is stuffed into a natural casing and then cooked. Cylindrical or oval in shape, mortadella can weigh as much as 220 pounds. Originally, the pork was ground with a mortar and pestle and this may be where it gets its name, from mortaio meaning mortar.

When ready to eat, it is either very thinly sliced and served as part of an antipasto, or it can be made into a filling for tortellini or used as a spuma (lightly foamed consistency) and spread on crostini. It is often cut into thick cubes and served with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Mortadella di Bologna is not allowed in the United States as of this writing, and the domestic brands have nothing in common with the real thing. Domestically produced baloney is often confused with mortadella as well. You will just have to try it in Italy and taste the difference yourself.


  1. Dan G's avatar

    Dan G

    I looove mortadella! I think...after reading your last paragraph. I live near Revere, MA and there is a great italian deli/product market that I swear has italian mortadella.

    I feel like with a curve ball like telling us that Mortadella di Bologna is now allowed, tell us why! That is really interesting!

    I love the one with and without pistachios, but now I am wondering what it is I am eating hehe.

    Baloney on the other hand..blah.
  2. mary ann esposito's avatar

    mary ann esposito

    Dan what you are eating is domestic Mortadella; it is not yet allowed here from Italy according to the FDA because of fear of swine flu. Even this may be old news to us, sometimes the government is slow to move on these issues.
  3. Sharon Marchioni's avatar

    Sharon Marchioni

    Hi Mary Ann,

    Al and I went several times to the Balogna book fair and used to eat small grilled Mortadella sandwiches that were sooo delicious!!
  4. Neal Komedal's avatar

    Neal Komedal

    Hi Mary Ann,
    I really enjoy your show on TV. After I saw you making pasta con le sarde in Cefalu, I went and caught some smelt for the first time in years so I could make a local version of the dish. Thanks for showing us how it's done. Our fennel isn't as good as theirs, but our fish is better, I think.
    Anyway, about mortadella, it seems to me that we had it in Bologna as a second plate, sliced about 3/8", grilled and dressed with balsamic vinegar. I assumed it was common to serve it like that, but I can't find a recipe. Not that you need one, I just wonder if it's normal or unusual.

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