Have you ever had a fried mortadella sandwich? We’re not talking about just another bologna sandwich here. This is what a bologna sandwich dreams of becoming in its tastiest fantasies. Hell, even the standard mortadella sandwich you get anywhere on the streets of Italy can’t compete, though I love those deeply. This is fried mortadella — a very special treat found in the food halls of São Paulo and wider Brazil.
The fried mortadella sandwich has become an Italian-Brazilian cornerstone of central markets and food halls in Brazil’s capital. It’s a stacked sandwich with about a half-pound (or more) of thinly sliced mortadella that’s fried on a flattop, topped with melty cheese, and piled high on a fresh bread roll with a little mustard and mayo. This is not healthy food. In fact, this might be the most unhealthy thing we’ve ever cooked in this series.
That said, it’s f*cking delicious and always the first meal I seek out when I go to Brazil. And often the second meal, too.
Since going to Brazil is pretty much out of the question at the moment, I decided to start the week off strong and make this sandwich at home. I got some decent mortadella from Italy, a good bread roll from the corner bakery, and some solid cheese. That’s really all it takes — so let’s get cooking!
Fried Mortadella Sandwich
- 0.5-lb. Italian mortadella
- 1 bun
- 1 slice gruyère
- 1 slice cheddar
Don’t skimp on the mortadella. You need that proper, nutty, slightly spicy, and fatty mortadella from a good Italian deli. If you use something like Oscar Meyer bologna, it’ll taste completely different (and a lot worse). American bologna is not a substitute for a real Italian mortadella. Ever. (If you don’t have an Italian deli handy, try a Persian grocer.)
I’m also doubling up on the cheese. All the sandos I had in food halls in Brazil did not go easy on the cheese. So, I’m layering Swiss gruyere with Irish cheddar. Neither are over the top but melt nicely and bring some serious cheesiness to the mix.
Other than that, the rest is easy. It’s just a fresh bread roll, good mayo, and mildly spicy brown mustard.
What You’ll Need:
- Large saute pan
- Bread knife
- Cutting board
- Get your cheese, mortadella, sauces, and bun lined up while the saute pan heats up on medium heat.
- Add the mortadella to the saute pan and brown on each side while folding and stacking the mortadella to the side of the pan. A lot of fat will render out during this process so you do NOT need any oil in the pan to start. I like to turn the whole pile over after I add a new layer, this will allow the crispy edges to layer into the body of the sandwich.
- Once you’ve browned off and stacked all the mortadella, top the stack with the cheese and the crown of the bun. Let the cheese melt while the bun steams on low heat.
- Add a layer of mayo and mustard to the heal and crown of the bun.
- Use the spatula to move the giant stack of fried mortadella to the heal bun.
- Top with the crown, slice down the middle, and serve immediately.
I’m not going to lie, this was a greasy mess and I loved every goddamn bite of it. The mortadella was nice and warm, which really accentuated the nutmeg and clove in the spice mix while the fattiness literally melted in my mouth.
The cheese was the perfect, gooey counterpoint with a touch of funk next to a mild nuttiness. The melted cheese, mortadella fat, mustard, and mayo sort of coalesced to create a funky, cheesy, and fatty sauce. It was… not hard to finish this sandwich. And it was a pretty honkin’ sandwich, so that’s saying something.
The textural element of the fried mortadella is the real treasure here. The grilled fatty sausage took on this brilliant Maillard effect and crisped up as well as any good-quality bacon. This added an “x-factor” that took this from just a hot mortadella sandwich with some melted cheese to something truly delightful.
Let me go ride my bike for a week. Then I’m eating this again.