Day Nineteen: “Mortadella” Burgers

1 Feb

Mortadella is a fantastically good mystery meat that, despite containing pig throat/neck fat (traditionally, that is), I will continue to have a love affair with. I love fancy baloney. I don’t eat it very much, which is probably why I’ve maintained such a great relationship with it.

Christian and I are in the market for a new rug, perhaps we should get this one:

I’m not sure what it is about mortadella that I like so much. Perhaps it is the unexpected nutmeg and spice flavors, or maybe it is the pistachios , or maybe it is just the chunks of fat. I don’t know. In the end, I don’t really care. I just want to eat it, heartburn and all.

Since I’ll never actually make real mortadella, I decided to make the flavors of mortadella in a burger form. I mean, why not? The sausage itself is pork shoulder, just in more of a paste form and smoked. There’s no reason this couldn’t be transformed into a fabulous grilled patty. And so I tried.

One word: revelation.

The components of the entire burger were the “mortadella” pork patty, homemade tomato and roasted red pepper ketchup and melted fontina cheese. I served mine on a GF bun, while the normal folks got whole grain ciabatta buns. It was served alongside a salad of grilled artichoke hearts, grilled radicchio and grilled red onions with chopped dry salami, red wine vinaigrette and shaved Parmesan, as well as some hot crash potatoes (THE best potato ever). The meal was like one giant antipasto platter, and it was delicious.

Oh, I can’t forget. For dessert, we had Lynn’s gluten-free mandarin cake with almond flour, alongside vanilla ice cream and shaved dark chocolate. I’ll be posting that recipe – it was divine!

I really can’t believe how much the burger tasted like mortadella. I had some slices of the real thing that I brought to the table to do a tasting, and all said it was nearly impossible to distinguish between them, flavor wise. Success! It took only 2 attempts to get the flavors right using quarter sized mini patties as a test. I was pretty satisfied, to say the least.

The burger in its entirety was a hit. Lynn loved the ketchup, which added a nice sweet and hot kick to the sandwich. In fact, I sent her home with the remaining sauce. It really added another layer to the dish, and complemented the pork patty so well. The melted fontina was a subtle touch, but much needed. I think a provolone or even ribiola cheese would have been great as well. The cheese is definitely not the star of the show, and shouldn’t outshine the burger. The patty itself had all the right flavors, and was finished with a nice dark brown crust which sealed in the juices.

You’ve got to try this. It was like heaven.

The only thing that went wrong with the night? As I sat down to take some pictures of the burger, the battery went dead. So, a poor quality photo from our back-up camera was included here. It just doesn’t do the burger justice, but I knew I couldn’t post without a visual at all!

“Mortadella” Burger


  • 1 to 1.25 lbs pork shoulder, ground
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup diced canned tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • grated fontina cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • hamburger buns or other rolls
  • lettuce, onions, whatever garnish you’d like

To make the ketchup:

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Cut the bell pepper into strips, about 1/2″ wide. Roast the strips for about 30 minutes, until charred. When done, place in plastic bag and seal, so that the pepper sweat for about 10 minutes. Remove peppers and peel skin away. Chop and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, until well browned. The onions should have very dark brown edges. Add the wine, scraping up the bottom of the pan. Add tomatoes, chopped peppers, sugar, rosemary, crushed red pepper and salt/pepper to taste. Cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 to 15 minutes. When done, transfer to blender or food processor and puree. Stir in red wine vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and with more sugar or vinegar if needed (depending on your preference).

To make the burger:

In a small bowl, combine the spices and add the pork. Add the white wine and mix, with your hands, until incorporated. Divide the meat into 4 portions and press into patties. Divide the pistachios evenly and press into each of the patties, distributing them throughout. You can do this ahead of time – cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat with a bit of olive oil. When very hot, add patties and cook until done, about 7 minutes per side (this will depend on thickness). When burgers have been flipped and are nearly done, place fontina cheese on each burger and transfer to a hot oven (for toasting buns/rolls) and cook until melted, about 2-3 minutes.

While burgers are cooking, toast up some buns or rolls in an oven at 425 degrees (I placed the bread directly on the oven racks and let them get crispy). Spread ketchup on one or both sides, and add the burger. Finish with optional garnishes.


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