Mortadella pronounced /morta'dɛl:a/ is an Italian cold cut (salume /sa'lume/) made of finely hashed/ground heat-cured pork sausage which incorporates at least 15% small cubes of pork fat (principally the hard fat from the neck of the pig). It is delicately flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg, coriander and pistachios.
Traditionally the pork filling was ground to a paste using a large mortar (mortaio /mor'tajo/) and pestle. Two Roman funerary stele in the archaeological museum of Bologna show such mortars. Alternatively, according to Cortelazzo and Zolli Dizionario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana 1979-88, Mortadella gets its name from a Roman sausage flavored with myrtle in place of pepper.
The Romans called the sausage "farcimen mirtatum" (myrtle sausage), because the sausage was flavored with myrtle berries. Anna del Conte (The Gastronomy of Italy 2001) found a sausage mentioned in a document of the official body of meat preservers in Bologna dated 1376 that may be mortadella.
Mortadella originated in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna; elsewhere in Italy it may be made either in the Bolognese manner or in a distinctively local style. The mortadella of Prato is a Tuscan speciality flavoured with pounded garlic. The mortadella of Amatrice, high in the Apennines of northern Lazio, is unusual in being lightly smoked. Because it originated in Bologna, this contributed to the naming of the American meat bologna.
Mortadella Bologna has Protected Geographical Indication status under European Union Law. The zone of production is extensive: as well as Emilia-Romagna and the neighbouring regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, Marche and Tuscany, it includes Lazio and Trentino.
It is very popular in Spain and Portugal, where a variety with pepper and olives is widely consumed, especially in sandwiches. Sometimes, in Spain, the standard mortadella is referred to as Mortadela italiana ("Italian mortadella"), because there's a local variant named Catalana or "Catalan mortadella". In Hungary they have a similar product called in Hungarian Mortadella and a plain variety called Pariser, Parizer or Párizsi.
In Lebanon, it is known by the same name, Mortadella, and is available in pork, beef, chicken and turkey, both imported from Italy and locally made. A variety with pepper and olives is also very popular.
Mortadella is also very popular in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, thanks to the Italian immigrants established in these countries in the early 20th century. The normal spelling in these countries, however, is mortadela. São Paulo has a very popular mortadela sandwich sold in the Mercado Municipal.
In several Arab and Muslim countries, like the UAE, Qatar and Egypt, Halal mortadella is sold, which is made from chicken, beef, or turkey.
It's also popular in Iran, albeit usually made with beef or lamb, and called martadella or, more commonly, cawlbawss