The origins of Mortadella Bologna are to be found in the area of ancient Etruscan Felsina and the Bonomia of the Gallic Boii, places rich in oak forests that provided tasty acorns for the numerous local swine, both wild and domesticated.
There are two theories regarding the origin of the name: one is that it derives from “murtatum”, meaning meat finely ground in a mortar, while the second, less probable, is that it comes from “farcimen mirtatum”, a Roman name for a pork sausage flavoured with myrtle and prepared in a mortar. Returning to the Etruscan origin of mortadella, confirmation of this suggestion can be found in the fact that other types of mortadella have survived in the areas once occupied by the Etruscans, or those near them, although different from that of Bologna.
It is certain, however, that the production and appreciation of large, heat-dried, finely ground sausages soon extended far beyond the restricted limits of Bologna and the Po Valley area.
In Tuscany, between 1350 and 1355, Giovanni Boccaccio mentions “mortadello” in the final pages of his Decameron, and the Viscounts of Milan in the 15th century willingly offered the city of Bologna a fat ox each year in exchange for fragrant mortadella.
Bologna, on the other hand, became the guarantor of the quality of this special sausage and in 1661 Cardinal Farnese issued a proclamation regulating the production of mortadella, providing one of the first examples of rules similar to those currently in force for PDO and PGI labelling.
Its preparation and the application of the required seals of guarantee were entrusted to the Guild of the “Salaroli” [salted meat vendors], one of Bologna’s oldest, which was already using a pestle and mortar as its emblem in 1376.
Starting from the nineteenth century, mortadella became increasingly popular on Italian and foreign markets. This was partly due to the introduction of the first industrial pork processing companies that adopted and consolidated the recipe and tradition of this sausage. These companies received a highly favourable response and were encouraged by excellent future prospects.
Mortadella Bologna is a cold cut with an oval-shaped or cylindrical exterior and a compact, non-elastic consistency. When cut, the surface should be smooth, with a uniform bright pink colour, and the slice must contain small, pearly white squares of fatty tissue, well distributed and united with the paste. It has a typical aromatic fragrance and a delicate flavour, with no hint of smoked meat.
To recognise Mortadella Bologna PGI , the label should always be carefully checked for two distinctive elements: the yellow and blue PGI stamp and the words “Mortadella Bologna”.
EC recognition provides consumers with valid assurance that when buying products with the PGIlabel, they are buying quality foods that meet clear requirements and are produced in compliance with precise specifications. EC recognition is also a safeguard for farmers against imitations or unfair competition (agro-piracy).
La tecnica produttiva della Mortadella Bologna è assolutamente particolare e unica in tutto il mondo. Base di partenza sono carni, trattate secondo un disciplinare europeo, che vengono triturate e ridotte a una emulsione cremosa attraverso tre diversi passaggi in apposite macchine tritacarne.
La produzione della Mortadella Bologna è suddivisa nelle seguenti fasi: preparazione della carne; preparazione delle barrette di grasso; miscelazione; insaccamento; cottura e raffreddamento.
Only pork from striated muscle must be used, with high-quality fat for the “lardelli”; this is mainly taken from the throat, which is the hardest and most refined type of pig fat.
Glucose and certain additives may be used, but only in small quantities, and the addition of polyphosphates, colouring agents or milk proteins is prohibited.
The Local Area
The Mortadella Bologna production area includes the territory of the following regions and provinces: Emilia Romagna, Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, province of Trento, Tuscany, Marche and Lazio.
Its connection with the traditions of the production area is indisputable and can be attributed to the specific knowledge and skills of the producers, with experienced workers passing on the tradition established over the centuries from generation to generation.
Curator — Consorzio Mortadella Bologna