Whether making a Muffaletta Sandwich for your Mardi Gras celebrations or serving a hearty lunch to a small crowd, this famous New Orleans sandwich will help those good times roll!
How to Make a Muffuletta Sandwich
The muffaletta (or muffuletta) sandwich originated when Salvatore Lupo, the legendary French Quarter’s Central Grocery owner, noticed migrant workers layering sliced meats and olive salad on bread to eat at lunch. Seeing an opportunity to fill a need, he created what’s now the classic Muffaletta Sandwich: a peasant-style loaf of round bread filled with olive salad, meats, and provolone cheese.
What Kind of Meats?
The best Muffaletta Sandwiches feature meats and cheese layered on a round loaf of Italian bread. Some folks add ham, and others use prosciutto or capicola instead of mortadella, bologna-style meat containing at least 15% chunks of pork fat. (Yep, this is not for the calorie-conscious!) The important thing is to ask your deli to slice them thinly, or you’ll wind up with a sandwich that’s difficult to chew.
Homemade Olive Salad
It’s not a Muffuletta Sandwich if it doesn’t feature olive salad. Olive tapenade isn’t a good substitute — it won’t have the same bite as the New Orleans version. Fortunately, it’s an easy spread to make.
I’ve included an olive salad recipe below, but you can make one freestyle if you like. The key ingredients are chopped olives, garlic, flat-leaf parsley or oregano, pimentos (roasted red peppers), olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Use your food processor, or chop everything by hand if you’d rather. Then stir in the oil and more 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. That brings it all together, and you won’t regret it.
Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe
- Food processor or cutting board and knife
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Large bowl
- Plastic wrap or waxed paper
- 1 cup black olives drained
- 1 cup green olives drained
- 1 tablespoon capers drained (optional)
- ⅓ cup roasted red bell pepper
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large round peasant-style loaf of bread
- ⅓ lb. Genoa salami thinly-sliced
- 1/3 lb. Capicola thinly-sliced
- ⅓ lb. mortadella thinly-sliced
- ⅓ lb. provolone cheese thinly-sliced
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 coasley chopped, not minced. Transfer the olive salad to a large bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so the flavors combine.
Make the Sandwich
- Slice the bread loaf in half horizontally. Using your fingers or a spoon, hollow out the bottom half's soft center, leaving a 1/2 inch shell. Be careful that you don't make holes in the crust.
- Spread half the olive salad on the bread, layer on the meats, then top it with the cheese. Add the remaining olive salad, including any juices accumulated in the bowl. Then add the top half of the bread.
- Wrap the entire sandwich in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours while flavors combine.
- To serve: unwrap the sandwich and cut into 6 or 8 wedges, like you would a pie. Serve at room temperature. Store tightly-wrapped leftovers in the refrigerator and consume or freeze them within 5 days.
Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe Tips
Make it in advance: Muffulettas taste best when you make them ahead of time and let them rest, so the flavors get a chance to combine. The resting time also allows the olive salad to soften that massive loaf of bread while spreading the flavor through the meat. If you choose to wrap the sandwich in wax paper, place a baking sheet under the loaf to catch any juices.
Substituting cheeses: You can substitute thinly-sliced mozzarella for the provolone. Swiss cheese is not a good substitute since it has a different flavor.
Substituting bread: Muffaletta bread is traditionally a round loaf of Italian bread sliced into wedges. But there’s no reason you can’t do it open-faced on focaccia bread or make it as individual sandwiches between slices of Italian bread.
Substituting meats: A classic Muffuletta sandwich features a mixture of pork-based meats featuring smoky, salty, and spicy flavors. Alternatives include pancetta, prosciutto, Serrano or deli ham, mortadella, capicola, Genoa Salami, and Cotto salami.
More Recipes to Try: