Dish of the Week: Muffuletta

The classic New Orleans sandwich can be toasted or served cold.
The classic New Orleans sandwich can be toasted or served cold.
Photo by Krista

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a NOLA classic, the muffuletta.

When you think of New Orleans sandwiches, we’re sure the iconic po-boy is the first to come to mind. But the second favorite between-the-bread staple, the muffuletta (or muffaletta), deserves a closer look.

It's made on round Sicilian sesame bread and packed with Italian meats, cheeses and condiments, and you can think of the sandwich as Louisiana’s version of the Italian sub. Typically, the loaf is split and layered with mortadella, salami, capicola, mozzarella and provolone, and a marinated olive salad – made with a mix of chopped olives and giardiniera (an Italian-style pickled vegetable salad).

According to New Orleans Historical, the muffuletta was created by Sicilian immigrants who arrived at the port of New Orleans from the port of Palermo in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They settled in the bustling lower French Quarter, and the area – which became known as “Little Palermo” or the “Italian Sector” – became home to many Italian bakeries that pumped out muffaletto, a traditional baked Sicilian loaf. Central Grocery’s Salvatore Lupo is widely credited with making the first muffuletta, in 1906. The story goes that local farmers would buy the muffaletto loaf along with Italian cold cuts, olives and cheese and eat it all standing up or with the ingredients balancing on their laps. In order to make it easier for his customers, Lupo created the sandwich that we know and love today.  

This recipe, from Emeril Lagasse, uses a mix of pickled Italian vegetables, Calamata and pimento-stuffed olives, capers, garlic and spices to give the sandwich zip. But the magic really comes when you wait for all of the flavors to meld. After preparing, wrap the sandwich tightly and let it sit for a couple of hours before serving.

Emeril’s Muffuletta 

Ingredients serves 8
5 ounces pimento-stuffed olives (1 cup), sliced, plus 2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar
6 ounces chopped giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables) (1 cup), plus 1 tablespoon of liquid from the jar
2 tablespoons drained capers, plus 2 teaspoons of liquid from the jar
3 ounces pitted Calamata olives (1/2 cup), sliced
2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large round loaf seeded Italian bread (about 1 1/4 pounds), split
1/4 pound sliced fresh mozzarella
6 ounces sliced capocollo or prosciutto, sliced thin
1/4 pound sliced Genoa salami, , sliced thin
1/4 pound sliced mortadella, sliced thin
1/4 pound sliced mild provolone cheese, sliced thin
Peperocini, for serving

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir the pimento-stuffed olives with the giardiniera, capers and their respective liquids. Add the Calamata olives, garlic, shallot, oregano, parsley, thyme and crushed red pepper. Stir in the olive oil and let the mixture stand for one hour.

Open the Italian bread on a work surface. Spoon the olive salad on both sides of the bread and spread evenly. Arrange the mozzarella slices on the bottom half of the bread, then top with the capocollo, Genoa salami and mortadella. Arrange the provolone cheese on the top half of the bread, covering the olive salad completely. Carefully close the sandwich.

Wrap the sandwich tightly in plastic and let stand for 30 minutes or up to two hours.

Cut the sandwich into eight pieces and serve peperoncini on the side.


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