The muffuletta is both a type of round Sicilian sesame bread and a popular submarine-style sandwich originating among Italian immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana using the same bread.
A muffuletta is a large, round, and somewhat flattened loaf with a sturdy texture, around 25 cm across. It is described as being somewhat similar to focaccia.
A traditional style muffuletta sandwich consists of a Muffuletta Loaf split horizontally and covered with layers of marinated olive salad, capicola, mortadella, salami, pepperoni, ham, Swiss cheese and provolone. The sandwich is sometimes heated to soften the provolone. Quarter, half, and full-sized muffulettas are sold.
The signature olive salad consists of olives diced with the celery, cauliflower and carrot found in a jar of Giardiniera, seasoned with oregano and garlic, covered in olive oil, and allowed to combine for at least 24 hours.
Origins of the Muffuletta Sandwich
The muffuletta sandwich has its origins at the Central Grocery in the French Quarter of New Orleans. According to Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, it was born when Sicilian farmers selling their produce at the nearby Farmers’ Market would come into her father’s grocery for lunch and order some salami, ham, cheese, olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or a round muffuletta loaf. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately sitting on crates or barrels while precariously balancing their meals on their knees. Her father suggested cutting the bread and putting everything on it like a sandwich, even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. The thicker braided Italian bread proved too hard to bite and the softer round muffuletta loaf won out. Shortly, farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.
- ¾ cup pitted mixed oil-packed olives
- 1 tablespoon capers
- ¼ cup chopped roasted red peppers
- 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
- ½ cup giardiniera (Italian-style pickled vegetable salad)
- 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large muffuletta-style roll
- 150 g thinly sliced sweet soppressata
- 150 g thinly sliced mortadella
- 150 g thinly sliced capicola
- 150 g thinly sliced provolone cheese
- Combine olives, capers, peppers, parsley, giardiniera, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop until no pieces larger than 1½ cm remain. Transfer to a bowl. Add vinegar and olive oil and stir to combine. For best results, let olive salad rest overnight.
- Split muffuletta roll in half and spread each cut surface generously with olive salad, making sure to include the juices when spreading. Layer half of soppressata on bottom half of bun, followed by half of mortadella, half of capicola, and half of provolone. Repeat layers with remaining meat and cheese. Close sandwiches and press down gently to compress. For best flavour, wrap tightly in paper or plastic and let rest for 1 hour before serving. Cut into triangular wedges to serve.
Use ciabatta or focaccia in place of a muffuletta roll, or any good bread with a relatively soft crust.