The Muffuletta is one of the greatest sandwiches ever created, yet sadly many have never heard of it. The Muffuletta is a New Orleans classic, created in 1906 by a local grocery owner named Salvatore Lupo. Lupo, an attentive man, watched as Sicilian farmers would come to his store, The Central Grocery & Deli, and order an assortment of items and eat them separately. Lupo had the bright idea to put them all together. A Muffuletta is a sandwich made from a round loaf of bread typically about 8-10 inches-across, layered with Italian salami, mortadella, cheese and a visually appealing olive salad that gives it its distinct, briny flavor. As tradition has it, a true Muffuletta should be served cold, not hot, although you will see it both ways.
The Central Grocery has been making the original Muffuletta for more than a century and their special olive salad recipe is still a secret held by the third-generation owners. Fans have tried to guess at its contents. I have seen everything from just a mixture of olives to pickled vegetables with a few mixed olives thrown in.
I first learned about the Muffuletta in culinary school. A team I was on decided to serve it one day as a special at the school’s restaurant. It is not French, nor was it even cooked, but our chef-instructor approved it. I’m picky with sandwiches, but it was love at first bite for me. Particularly that olive salad. I have always enjoyed briny cured olives. And combined with fine cured meats, I thought it was a real winner. So did the restaurant diners. We sold out of Muffuletta within an hour of service. That was a first.
This is not a dainty sandwich. It is, by design, big and overstuffed. This is a fantastic picnic/party food perfect for the upcoming Labor Day weekend if you ask me. Making it slightly ahead is a requirement in fact, so the bread has time to soak up some of the delicious olive salad. My version is rather straightforward, but I mix it up a bit when I make my olive salad and toss in some sweet roasted peppers to balance out all the salty, briny, cured meat flavor. When I made this recently, my older son, the meat-olive eater, asked “where has this been all my life?” I think that says it all.
- For the olive salad:
- 1/2 cup green olives, pitted
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
- 1/3 cup roasted red peppers
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- For the Muffuletta:
- 1 round bread loaf, about 8-inches in diameter
- 4 ounces salami, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces mortadella, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces capicola ham, thinly sliced
- 6 ounces provolone cheese, thinly sliced
- pickled peperoncino, for garnish
- Step 1 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a blade attachment, add the olives, roasted peppers, capers and garlic. Pulse to chop so there are no large pieces. Transfer the olive salad to a small bowl. Add the olive oil and the vinegar and mix well. Set aside.
- Step 2 To assemble the Muffuletta, slice the bread lengthwise and scoop out a good amount of the inside if the bread to accommodate the filling.
- Step 3 Spread the olive salad (and their juices) generously on both half of the bread.
- Step 4 Layer half the salami on the bottom half of the bread, followed by half of the mortadella, half the capicola and half the provolone. Repeat the layering process with the remaining meat and cheese. Place the bread top on the sandwich and press down lightly. Allow the Muffuletta to rest for 30 minutes so the flavors can blend.
- Step 5 To serve, cut into slices or wedges.