Whether you enjoy football or not, it’s hard not to like the food that goes with it, and this Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe is no exception! It’s also fantastic to take on picnics since there’s no mayonnaise and one sandwich serves an entire crowd.
Like many of my football food recipes such as Pimento Cheese or Stuffed Potato Skins, this is not for the calorie conscious. It is, however, for people who love bold flavors, and that’s what makes it a favorite in our house.
What is a Muffaletta Sandwich?
My husband was a big fan of these sandwiches, which we first tried together on our honeymoon in New Orleans. Having grown up in Minnesota, his idea of an exotic sandwich involved adding mustard to his turkey on white.
But honeymooning in the French Quarter often involves waking up with a bit of a hangover and a big need for filling food. The shop next door had a sign bragging about their Muffaletta Sandwiches, so he popped over and picked one up for us.
It instantly became our favorite. The following year, I hunted down a Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe on our anniversary and did so again every year that he was alive. Plus, I made them now and then for Sunday football when his team was doing well. (It gave me a good excuse to enjoy them, too.)
The Muffaletta’s Italian Roots
It seems every beloved food or beverage has a bit of controversy about its origins. Take, for instance, the arguments over the margarita’s creation. There’s plenty of debate over the ancestry behind the Muffaletta Sandwich, too.
The controversy is partially due to the name. Muffuletta refers specifically to a Sicilian round, sesame bread. As Italian migrants became more numerous in New Orleans, the muffuletta loaf began appearing in Italian grocery stores.
The Famous New Orleans Sandwich
The version we eat today originated at the tiny but legendary Central Grocery and Deli in the French Quarter.
According to the daughter of the store’s owner, her father saw that Sicilian farmers would order salami and other cured meats, a little olive salad, some cheese, and bread. Then they would sit on barrels, balancing their food on their knees, trying to eat.
One day inspiration struck, and he suggested making a sandwich out of it all. Thus, the Famous New Orleans Muffuletta Sandwich was born.
How Do You Pronounce or Spell It?
Sicilians referred to their round sesame loaf as muffuletta. By the time the sandwich caught on, the Louisianans had made it their own.
Folks in N’awlins put their Southern spin on the pronunciation, so the Muffuletta loaf became the Muffaletta Sandwich. And, really, most of the time I heard it pronounced Muff-letta, but why quibble?
Muff-OO-let-tah, muff-uh-LET-tah, muff-LETTA — no matter how you pronounce, if you ask for it in Louisiana, it’ll be so good!
Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe
A Muffaletta Sandwich is basically a peasant-style loaf of round bread filled with olive salad, mortadella, salami, and provolone cheese.
Meats Reflect the Italian Heritage
Some folks add ham, others use turkey instead of mortadella, which is bologna-style meat containing at least 15% chunks of pork fat. (As I said, this is not for the calorie-conscious!)
The best Muffaletta Sandwiches feature freshly-sliced meats and cheeses. Be sure to ask the deli clerk to cut the meats and cheeses on the thin side, or your sandwich will be too big to eat!
The Olive Salad is Key!
It’s not a Muffaletta if it doesn’t feature olive salad, which is not to b confused with olive tapenade for it.
It’s an easy spread to make: pulse black and green olives, capers, garlic, flat leaf parsley, olive oil and red wine vinegar in your food processor. Or chop everything by hand if you’d rather, then stir in the oil and vinegar.
Let the prepared olive salad sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (or up to 4 hours) for the flavors to combine.
How to Make a Muffaletta Sandwich
Hollow the Bread a Bit
That round peasant bread can dislocate your jaw if you try biting into it without a bit of preparation! The easiest way to do this is by slicing the loaf in half horizontally. Then, using your fingers or a spoon, hollow out as much of the bread as you can without making holes in the crust.
This step is essential because it makes room for your sandwich ingredients and, again, ensures you’ll be able actually to bite through a slice. Here’s an example of the hollowing in progress.
Once your olive salad has finished sitting, spread half of it on the bottom half of the bread loaf. Go ahead and get it all the way to the edges, so you get that big flavor in every bite. Top this with a layer of mortadella followed by layers of salami and cheese — or cheese and salami, the order doesn’t matter.
When you’ve finished piling on the meats, top them with the remaining olive salad, including any juices that have accumulated in the bowl.
Wrap and Wait
Next, top with the other half of the bread and press down on the sandwich, so the juices on the olive salad work their way through. Wrap the whole thing up tightly in plastic wrap or butcher’s paper and refrigerate it for a couple of hours.
To serve, just unwrap and slice it into 6 to 8 wedges like you would a pie.
Serve at Room Temperature
An authentic Muffaletta Sandwich is served at room temperature and never heated. I know it’s tempting, what with all the yummy cheeses and layers of meat, but the flavor completely changes when it’s hot.
Which is not to say you can’t heat it, but be prepared for a completely different taste and texture if you do.
Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe
For the Olive Salad
- 1 cup pitted black olives drained
- 1 cup pitted green olives drained
- 1 tablespoon capers rinsed and drained
- ⅓ cup roasted red bell pepper
- ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Sandwich
- 1 large round peasant-style loaf of bread
- ⅓ lb. thinly-sliced Genoa salami
- ⅓ lb. thinly-sliced mortadella
- ⅓ lb. thinly-sliced provolone cheese
Make the Olive Salad
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic cloves until finely minced. Add the parsley and roasted red pepper and pulse five more times.
- Add the olives, capers, vinegar, and olive oil. Pulse repeatedly until the olives are chopped but not minced. Transfer the olive salad to an air-tight container and let it sit 30 minutes for the flavors combine.
Make the Sandwich
- Slice the bread loaf in half horizontally. Using your fingers or a spoon, hollow out the soft parts of the bread without making holes in the crust.
- Spread the bottom half of the loaf with half of the olive salad. Add the mortadella, followed by a layer of salami, then a layer of cheese.
- Spread the remaining half of the olive salad on top of the meats and cheese, pouring on any juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Top with the other half of the bread and press down firmly.
- Wrap the entire sandwich in plastic wrap or butcher’s paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours while flavors combine. (You can make this a day ahead — it’ll taste even better!)
- To serve: unwrap the sandwich and cut into 6 or 8 wedges, like you would a pie. Serve hot or cold.
Pin this Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe for later!