There’s nothing quite like a Muffuletta! This classic New Orleans sandwich consists of sturdy bread, zesty olive salad, and layers of Italian cold cuts and cheese. Its impressive size, appearance, and unique flavor make it a force in the sandwich world.
What is a Muffuletta?
A Muffuletta (pronounced moof-fuh-LEHT-tuh) is a classic sandwich, originating at a Sicilian Deli in New Orleans, dating back to the 1900’s. Today, they’re found in joints all over New Orleans, from grocery stores, delis, bowling alleys…you name it.
The sandwich starts with a round loaf of muffuletta sesame bread, topped with tangy olive salad, and layer upon layer of Italian cold-cuts and cheese. It’s gigantic! They’re somewhat labor intensive to make, but the pay off is worth it. There’s nothing quite like a muffuletta sandwich!
Is this an Authentic Muffuletta Recipe?
It’s close! A traditional Muffuletta consists of olive salad, layers of thinly-sliced Italian meats, and cheese, all bookended between a specific sesame bread that is round and pretty flat, about 8-10 inches in diameter.
Our recipe we’re sharing today has all of those components, except for the bread, which isn’t a true Muffuletta roll – those are difficult to find outside of New Orleans. We also chose to hollow out a bit of the bread, which isn’t typically done. But it’s just too much bread for us. Your choice!
Muffuletta Sandwich – The Parts
There are a few key components that set this sandwich apart from others.
- Muffuletta Bread: This true Sicilian sandwich uses a 10-inch round loaf of oven-fresh Italian bread topped with sesame seeds. It can be tricky to find, but don’t fret. A round Italian loaf of bread with a dense texture, but soft crust will work fine, such as ciabatta or focaccia. Avoid soft French loaves of bread, which can’t hold up to the weight of the filling.
- Muffuletta Olive Salad: This is the key ingredient, which gives the sandwich its signature flavor and appearance. Olive salad is a mix of chopped marinated olives, capers, pepperoncini peppers, cocktail onions, pickled vegetables (Giardiniera), vinegar, oil, and seasonings. It’s tangy, spicy, and very colorful. We make our own Giardiniera from scratch, but it can also be found jarred in most common grocery stores next to the olives and capers.
- Sandwich Assembly: Along with the olive salad, thin slices of Genoa salami, Italian ham, mortadella, mozzarella cheese, and provolone cheese make up the filling. While it’s not required, it is best to let the sandwich sit in the fridge for a couple hours before cutting and serving, which allows the juices and oils from the olive salad to soak into the bread, providing optimal flavor.
- Let the sandwich rest before slicing: As mentioned above, it’s best to let the sandwich rest for a few hours, so the bread can absorb the juices from the olive salad. It is optional, but the flavor is elevated.
- Serve at room temperature or warm: My understanding is that a true Muffuletta Sandwich is always served at room temperature, but I’ve also heard people love it warmed in the oven. It’s good both ways! If you do want it warm, wrap it in foil and heat in a 300 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, then unwrap it for about 5 minutes to get it a little crispy.
- Hollow out the bread or not: We choose to hollow out the bread a little to make room for the olive salad and also make it easier to eat! But this is not done with a real Muffuletta. Just personal preference.
- Make extra olive salad: Making the olive salad is by far the most labor-intensive part of the entire sandwich (but SO worth it!) Since you’re going to the trouble of making it, we recommend doubling it. This way you’ll have some extra all ready to go when you’re craving another sandwich – it lasts for several weeks in the fridge. It’s also a great addition to salads or mixed into pasta.
Other Classic Sandwiches We Love
For the Olive Salad
- 16 ounce jar Giardiniera , drained and diced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives , drained and diced
- 1 tablespoon capers , drained
- 1/4 cup pepperoncini peppers , drained and diced
- 2 tablespoons diced marinated cocktail onions
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
For the Sandwich
- 1 pound (10-inch) round loaf Italian bread
- 4 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami
- 4 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
- 4 ounces thinly sliced mortadella
- 4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
To Make Olive Salad:
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the olive salad. Mix together and transfer to an airtight container. (If needed, pour in a touch more oil to cover.) Cover container and refrigerate overnight.
To Make Sandwiches:
- Slice the loaf of bread in half to make a top and bottom for the sandwich; hollow out a touch of the excess bread from the top half to make room for filling.
- Brush some of the olive salad juice on both the top and bottom halves of the loaf (go a little heavier on the bottom.) Layer with the salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, and Provolone. Top the meats and cheeses with a generous portion of olive salad and add the loaf top.
- Serve immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for a few hours (highly recommended); this will allow the flavors to meld and the olive salad to soak into the bread. Let come to room temperature.
- Using a serrated bread knife, cut sandwich into wedges/quarters.
- Optional: wrap the whole sandwich (before slicing) in foil, place on a large baking sheet, and warm in a 300 degree F oven for about 15 minutes, then unwrap it for about 5 minutes to get it a little crispy.