Originally published March 8, 2011. Updated on 1/23/2022
The Muffaletta is a New Orleans Sandwich that's hearty, full of flavour, and a crowd pleaser! This recipe got me a wedding ring, but YMMV 🙂
Though I've never been to the Big Easy during the Mardi Gras celebrations, this time of year holds a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons.
For one, it brings back a lot of memories of a trip to New Orleans (in the summertime, though!), back in 2005 (Immediately pre-Katrina).
A bunch of friends and I stayed in the French Quarter, and man.. what a wild amount of culture is packed into one place! The sights, the sounds.. the food! Great times.
Anyway, more importantly, it reminds me of getting engaged to my husband.
Sounds kinda weird, huh? It gets better. He proposed to me as the result of a very famous New Orleans sandwich - the Muffaletta!
He'd never heard of them before, but had a rabid love of olives. I remembered the delicious Italian sandwich I'd experienced in New Orleans, and decided that he HAD to try one.
Muffulettas appeared to be pretty hard to come by in Minnesota, so I made him one, from scratch. He went out and bought my ring the next day! LOL.
So, in honor of Fat Tuesday, here is my muffaletta sandwich recipe.
No guarantee that you'll have the same sparkly results from serving it (it ended up being the most expensive sandwich he'd ever had, lol!), but if you like olives, I'm sure you'll love it!
What is a Muffaletta?
IMHO the Muffaletta (or Muffuletta, both seem to be acceptable ways of spelling it!) is the king of all sandwiches.
The classic New Orleans sandwich was invented by Salvatore Lupo at Central Grocery in New Orleans back in 1906, the sandwich was a way for workers - many Sicilian immigrants - to conveniently combine the elements of their standard lunches - bread, pickles, meat, and cheese.
Basically, a loaf of bread, stacked with cheeses and deli meats that are crowned with a generous serving of Olive Salad.
The flavour-infused olive oil from the salad soaks into the bread, making these pretty much the only salad I prefer made well ahead of time.
I’ll make a muffuletta sandwich a day or so ahead of time, wrap it up, and keep it in the fridge until shortly before serving.
Take it out, slice it up, and go!
Muffaletta Sandwich Ingredients
Let’s take a deeper dive into the key ingredients that make up this great sandwich, shall well?
First, you want to start off with - ideally - a loaf of Italian bread. Look for a round loaf of bread with a bit of heft - it needs to hold up to the ingredients! - but also that’s got some softness to it.
TOO crusty makes it too hard to eat, after all!
This time around, we found a beautiful Calabrese loaf from Roma Bakery here in Hamilton. We’re kind of spoiled by the amount of fantastic Italian food here!
When we were still living in Minnesota, we’d usually have to settle for a loaf of sourdough bread.
When using a taller loaf - like the sour dough bread pictured - I’ll usually carve a bit of the bread out. I realize that this is HIGHLY controversial, but seriously it makes it a lot easier to eat it!
If you have access to it, though, you’ll want to use actual muffuletta bread - it’s a Sicilian bread with sesame seeds.
This olive salad mix is a condiment fairly specific to this sandwich, a kind of olive tapenade. It’s made from a black olives, green olives, and a variety of pickled vegetables, seasonings - especially pressed garlic cloves and dried oregano - and olive oil.
It’s super easy to make, especially if you have a food processor to make the chopped olives. Alternately, you can buy it. Central Grocery Olive Salad is the OG salad for this sandwich!
I have a great recipe for Olive Salad Recipe, so check it out if making it yourself!
Just be sure to make it a day ahead of time - you want to give it a chance for the flavours to infuse the olive oil, it really does make a difference for the sandwich!
You’ll want a variety of deli meats for this, preferably Italian cold cuts. I go with a pretty standard combination of:
When shopping for this muffaletta recipe, I tend to think of the meats in categories. There are 3 categories, each should be represented - IMHO - but reasonable substitutions from in that category are perfectly ok.
1. “Bologna-Adjacent”: Yup, that’s the way I chose to describe mortadella... but where’s the lie? It’s basically fancy Italian bologna! If you can’t find some, really thinly sliced bologna works.
2. Salami-ish: Pretty straightforward. I like to stick to Genoa salami when I can. Sometimes I’ll use soppressata, but in a pinch... pretty much any salami will work. Just have it sliced as thinly as possible!
3. Ham: Generally speaking, capicola - an Italian ham - is the gold standard here... I just never seem to be able to find it, when looking to make one of these! So, I go for regular ham, usually - honey baked, usually... black forest ham if it’s all I can find.
Prosciutto also works for this category, but I tend to be looking for ways to cut the cost, by the time I get to the ham-type element, LOL. This is not a cheap endeavor!
I like to use equal amounts of 2 different sliced cheeses: provolone cheese and mozzarella.
You can also use one or the other, different ratios, or bring in another cheese altogether - just try to stay close to the idea of provolone or mozzarella.
Fontina works well, but I’d stay away from anything smoked, really pungent, aged/dry, etc. Think “mild and smooth”!
Some people like to include Swiss cheese, as well.
How to Make a Muffaletta
The full recipe follows - at the end of this post - but here’s a pictorial overview
Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally. Scoop out a bit of the bread inside, if needed (I like to freeze it to make stuffing with at a later date!).
This allows room for all of the meats, cheeses, and salad you’ll be stuffing the sandwich with.
If the oil in your olive salad has solidified, warm up about 2 cups of salad in the microwave, just until the oil has liquified.
Drizzle some of the salad oil on thecut side of both halves of the loaf, and spread with olive salad. Use as much/little of the ~ 2 cups as you want.
Alternate layers of meat and cheeses on the bottom half of the bread to construct the sandwich.
I like to layer the meats and cheese - ½ of each type at a time, for a total of 10 layers - but feel free to construct it however you like.
Carefully cover with the top half of the loaf.
Wrap tightly with plastic / Saran wrap, chill for 30 minutes.
To serve, unwrap the whole thing and cut into wedges. For the best flavor, serve after it comes up to room temperature.
Makes 6-8 muffaletta sandwiches, depending on appetite!
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Muffaletta Sandwich Recipe
- 1 Large Round Italian Loaf Or Sourdough
- 2 Cups Olive Salad or more, if you'd like!
- ½ lb Thinly Sliced Mortadella
- ½ lb Thinly Sliced Genoa Salami
- ½ lb Thinly Sliced Ham
- ½ lb Provolone Cheese Sliced
- ½ lb Mozzarella Cheese Sliced
- If necessary, slice loaf of bread in half horizontally. Scoop out a bit of the bread inside (I like to freeze it to make stuffing with at a later date!). This allows room for all of the meats, cheeses, and salad you’ll be stuffing the sandwich with.
- If the oil in your olive salad has solidified, warm up about 2 cups of salad in the microwave, just until oil has liquified. Drizzle some of the salad oil on cut side of both halves of the loaf, and spread with olive salad. Use as much / little of the ~ 2 cups as you want.
- Layer meats and cheeses on the bottom half of the loaf to construct the sandwich – I like to alternate meats and cheeses, but feel free to go your own way with it.
- Carefully cover with the top half of the loaf.
- Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, chill for 30 minutes.
- To serve, unwrap and cut into wedges.