PGI Mortadella Bologna is by far the best example of charcuterie from Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. This delicacy is so one and the same with its native land that it is often simply known as "Bologna".
Pig farming in the Bologna area is documented all the way back to Roman times. At Bologna's Archaeological Museum, you will be able to see a rather curious stela depicting pigs being taken out to pasture on one side, and a mortar on the other; some believe that mortadella takes its name from this implement.
The first real recipe for mortadella is the precursor of the production standards that are used today, which in fact only date back to the seventeenth century. This ham is now produced in areas which extend beyond the borders of the Emilia-Romagna region, as far away as Piedmont, Lombardy and Veneto, as well as several other places in Italy. That said, the birthplace of this characteristic charcuterie is still Zola Predosa, which lies just a few kilometres from Bologna. Every year the town pays tribute to mortadella in the Mortadella Please festival.
The process begins first and foremost with the raw ingredients: mortadella is made from the striated muscles of pork and cubes of fat that are taken exclusively from the animal's jowls, known as "lardelli", similar to crackling. The mixture is then cooked in dry-air stoves for a length of time that varies depending on the size of the product and can range from a few hours to an entire day.
This is the process that grants mortadella its characteristic, mildly spiced aroma and full, balanced flavour.
Last but not least, there are the pistachios.
Some companies prefer not to add these to the mix, especially those in Bologna and northern Italy. That said, production specifications do not prohibit use of this ingredient.
There is a wide array of recipes that feature Bologna’s PGI Mortadella. Traditionally, it is used as an ingredient in the filling for tortellini, the typical stuffed pasta from Bologna, but can even be turned into a mousse to spread on slices of grilled bread as a snack to go with evening drinks, or as an accompaniment to fresh vegetables and cheese.
But perhaps the most classic way to enjoy mortadella is sliced in a delicious sandwich.