Mortadella Was All The Rage In 2023

The mild Italian deli meat took the spotlight on charcuterie boards this year.

Mortadella, the silky Italian deli meat that's frequently incorporated into Italian sandwiches, is having a moment right now. Reminiscent of bologna, mortadella is created with emulsified pork that that contains at least 15% cubed pieces of fat by volume, which allows the meat to melt away in your mouth as you eat it. But since it's been a quiet staple of the deli case for so long, why is it getting so much attention in 2023? A new feature in The New York Times explains the phenomenon. 

Chefs are driving interest in mortadella

After the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the import of Italian mortadella from 1967-2000—the measure was an abundantly cautious response to a swine flu scare—demand for the deli meat has been steadily rising for two decades. The NYT says that 1,200 tons of mortadella were imported in 2022, compared to 786 tons in 2019. And now, thanks to increased interest from consumers, chefs in the United States are really starting to shine a spotlight on it.

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Some chefs love mortadella so much that they make it in house at their restaurants, even though it's a labor-intensive process. Rolo's in Queens, New York, for example, features a house-made mortadella, as does Chicago butcher shop Publican Quality Meats (which briefly made an appearance in The Bear).

Mortadella is a great topping for pizza, either pre- or post-bake, and chefs like international pizza consultant Anthony Falco post pictures of mortadella muffulettas on Instagram that receive hundreds of likes. The meat looks so pillowy I could practically sleep on it, and that's as good as social media gold.

But mortadella hasn't always been that popular here. It's been hindered by its association with bologna, whose reputation as an emulsified "mystery meat" has never quite gone away. In the U.S., bologna is required to have no visible traces of fat in it, hence its emulsified nature and the reason it doesn't have the attractive white flecks seen in mortadella. (That attractiveness is what makes mortadella such a nice addition to charcuterie boards as well.)

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I've always been a fan of mortadella, so I hope the enthusiasm is here to stay and continues to rise. Hey, maybe even the humble bologna and yellow mustard sandwich might get a little love someday, thanks to the renewed interest in its Italian cousin. Stop by your local deli and pick up a quarter pound of it for a charcuterie platter or a sandwich. You might just join the fan club too.

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