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Bread and Mortadella Bologna

Mortadella, The Queen Of Bologna

Mortadella is so soft and silky to the palate with a lovely pink color and a very good smell. For that reason it’s not possible to not love it!  But for most of Italians Mortadella sandwich is something more. It is a childhood memory, a school snack or a typical sandwich to be enjoyed during a picnic with friends.

One region two breeding tradition

As the name suggest, Mortadella was for sure born in Bologna, the main city of Emilia Romagna region. Emilia Romagna has a very long tradition of breeding pig. Around  the VI century a.C in the beginning of the Medieval Times, after the end of the Western Roman Empire, Longobardi comes in the north of Italy. The invasion involved  Emilia Romagna too. In fact, Longobardi conquered Emilia (north of the region) while the Romagna remain under the control of the Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire).

Some different between Longobard and Byzantines culture 

The difference between population under control of Longobardi and Byzantines also characterized food and farming tradition. Byzantines preferred the breeding of goats as Longobardi exploited the woods for a wild pig grazing. Pigs are greedy of nuts and woods at that time were rich of them. 

That’s why Emilia Romagna region has two different food culture. In Romagna is still popular to eat castrated male sheep, not in Emilia.

The origin of mortadella 

According to some historians, the origins of mortadella date back to the Roman era. However there are two theories about the origin of the name. Some people think that the name comes back from “mortarium” (mortar). To confirm that, there is a Roman pillar showing us a bunch of pig and a mortar with pestle preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Bologna city.

An other theory about the origin of the name says the word mortadella comes from “Myrtatum” (myrtle in latin). That’s why the product was so different in the past. At the Roman times, myrtle  was the flavor used for a sausage called by the Romans “Farcimen Myrtatum”. Contrary of what happen today: Mortadella contains peppercorns or pistachios, not myrtle.

First recipe from Bologna city

In 1644 Vincenzo Tanara, an agronomist from Bologna city, wrote the first mortadella recipe on his book “The economy of the citizen in the villa”. The book  talks about agricolture and farming life in Emilia Romagna. Vincenzo Tanara gives us a very precise indication about  the quantity of the ingredients to use for the preparation of mortadella. Spices recommended in the Tanara’s recipe were:  salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, musk, pepper, sugar and Malvasia wine. But also the quantity of the fat was different. It was  higher then today.

Moreover the book contains a little medieval satire, “The Pig testament” which gives us a comic description of cooking pig by a speaking pig.

Forever DOP (protected designation of origin) 

To keep the product as it was in Tanara’s recipe, cardinal Girolamo Farnese decided in 1661 to put some terms of sale. They ensured  not only the original recipe but also the quality of the meat. Mortadella meat has to be only pork meat, he said.

At that time the production of mortadella is given only to the Salaroli corporation. Salaroli is a guild born in medieval time made up of  all workers of pork meat. Moreover the Salaroli crest included a mortar as symbol.

A working class salami with noble origin 

In Italy bread with mortadella is always considered the typical lunch of a working class men. Mortadella today is cheeper then ham or other salami but it wasn’t in the past. Before the industrial revolution, until the nineteenth century, mortadella was very expensive.

This is because the preparation of mortadella needs skillful grocers and highest quality meat. For a long time mortadella is been an exclusive product, consumed only by  rich people. Then the use of the machines during the industrial era changed the process. Machines replaced men so the prices drop.

Mortadella Bologna With Pistachios
Mortadella Bologna With Pistachios

Cooking and drinking with mortadella Bologna 

Mortadella Bologna is strictly made with pork. It is prepared with or without pistachios which are particularly appreciated in the central and southern regions of Italy. Mortadella it is also the main ingredient of the famous tortellini. In addition, it could be used to make the “mortadella spuma” that is a mousse prepare with mortadella, soft cheese (stracchino) or cottage cheese (ricotta) and parsley. Other traditional recipe in Emilia Romagna region is the Petronian stick (stecco petroniano). It is a stick with fried mortadella and cheese. 

Mortadella is very good cut into cubes  with some Parmisan cheese beside. This is the perfect appetizers to serve with a glass of wine, such as Lambrusco. Recently, many gourmets love to drink a glass of champagne instead of the traditional and local Lambrusco. For sure the best combination of wine is with a sparkling one!

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