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18 September 2020

This muffaletta recipe is the ultimate sandwich from New Orleans, piled high with Italian meats, cheese, and a homemade spicy olive tapenade. Feeds a crowd!

We’re making Muffaletta Sandwiches in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen today, my friends. Have you ever had a muffaletta? What a great sandwich!

I encountered my very first muffaletta on a foodie tour of New Orleans, where we were served a thick slice of the traditional version. Talk about delicious…and filling. New Orleans muffalettas have no equal.

The muffaletta is layered with Italian meats, including capicola, mortadalla and salami, lots of provolone cheese and a flavor powerhouse olive spread that stands up to all that meat. It’s all spread over round Italian bread, and meant to serve a small group.

Mike holding a slice of a Muffaletta sandwich

The sandwich was reportedly invented by Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo  at the Central Grocery Co in New Orleans in 1906 and has clearly stood the test of time, a true tribute to its flavorful impact.

I like to make this advance for parties or for us for long hike days. Great lunch! I think you’re going to love this one, my friends.

Let’s talk about how we make the classic muffaletta, shall we?

A slice of a Muffaletta sandwich

Muffaletta Sandwich Ingredients

  • FOR THE OLIVE TAPENADE MIXTURE
  • 1 cup green olives, chopped
  • 1 cup giardiniera, chopped (or use pickled peppers)
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • FOR THE MUFFALETTA SANDWICH
  • The Bread. 1 10-inch loaf of round Italian bread. Use Muffaletta bread if you can obtain it, though it is super rare outside of New Orleans. Italian bread is great.
  • The Meats. I use ½ pound thinly sliced capicola, ½ pound sliced mortadella and ½ pound sliced salami. Deli ham is a common addition.
  • Cheese. I use ½ pound sliced provolone cheese. Smoked mozzarella is a nice addition, too.

Ingredients for making muffaletta tapenade

How to Make a Muffaletta – the Recipe Method

Make the Olive Tapenade. Mix together the olives, giardiniera, roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil and oregano in large bowl. Season to taste with extra oil, salt and pepper.

ASSEMBLE THE MUFFALETTA

Prep the Bread. Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and scoop out part of the interior to make room for the olive-pepper salad. Save the scooped out bread for another use if you’d like. Lay the bread slices down with the insides facing up.

Olive tapenade being spread out over sliced Italian bread

Olive Spread. Spread the olive tapenade mixture evenly over the bread slices.

Layer it Up. Layer the bottom slice with capicola, mortadella, salami and provolone cheese. Top with the other half of bread.

Mike topping his muffaletta sandwich

Let is Rest. Wrap the entire muffaletta sandwich with plastic wrap and set a cast iron pan or other weight over the top of the sandwich to lightly press it down. This will let the tapenade juices soak into the bread and build a lot of flavor. Set aside for at least 1 hour. Overnight is even better for more developed flavor.

Unwrap and Serve. Unwrap the sandwich, slice it into 8 triangular pieces and serve, or into 4 large slices for very hungry people.

Mike slicing his muffaletta sandwich

Boom! Done! Time to enjoy your awesome muffaletta sandwich! How are you slicing yours? Are you serving it to a small group? Appetizer platter? Maybe just for yourself!

Recipe Tips & Notes

  • Muffaletta Bread. I can’t find muffaletta bread sold anywhere outside of New Orleans, so I buy a large round loaf of Italian bread. It is traditionally made on round bread, though you an use others, such as focaccia or a sub roll. Any bread will do, but I suggest using thicker, denser bread to stand up to the olive spread.
  • The Meats. Salami, mortadella and capicola are often used, though you can also use deli ham.
  • The Cheeses. Provolone is very common, though Swiss and mozzarella are also used. Try smoked mozarella. Yum.
  • Olive Salad. The olive tapenade is typically made with chopped olives mixed with chopped Italian style giardiniera ingredients (carrots, cauliflower, celery, peppers), though you can use other pickled vegetables and peppers with olive oil and Italian seasonings.

That’s it, my friends. I hope you enjoy your muffaletta sandwich. Let me know if you make it. I’d love to hear how it turned out for you. I love this recipe.

A thick and meaty Muffaletta sandwich sliced in half, showing all of the layers of meats and cheese

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

A thick and meaty Muffaletta sandwich sliced in half

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.

Mike holding a slice of a Muffaletta sandwich
Print Recipe
4.72 from 7 votes

Muffaletta Recipe

This muffaletta recipe is the ultimate sandwich from New Orleans, piled high with Italian meats, cheese, and a homemade spicy olive tapenade. Feeds a crowd!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Resting Time1 hr
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: cold cuts, giardiniera, New Orleans, olives, sandwich, spicy
Servings: 8
Calories: 580kcal

Ingredients

FOR THE OLIVE TAPENADE MIXTURE

  • 1 cup green olives chopped
  • 1 cup giardiniera chopped (or use pickled peppers)
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers chopped
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

FOR THE MUFFALETTA SANDWICH

  • 1 10- inch loaf of round Italian bread use Muffaletta bread if you can obtain it, but Italian is great
  • ½ pound sliced capicola or use deli ham, or both!
  • ½ pound sliced mortadella
  • ½ pound sliced salami
  • ½ pound sliced provolone cheese

Instructions

FOR THE OLIVE TAPENADE MIXTURE

  • Mix together the olives, giardiniera, roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil and oregano in large bowl.

ASSEMBLE THE MUFFALETTA

  • Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise and scoop out part of the interior to make room for the olive-pepper salad. Save the scooped out bread for another use if you’d like.
  • Lay the bread slices down with the insides facing up.
  • Spread the olive tapenade mixture evenly over the bread slices.
  • Layer the bottom slice with capicola, mortadella, salami and provolone cheese.
  • Top with the other half of bread.
  • Wrap the entire muffaletta sandwich with plastic wrap and set a pan or other weight over the top of the sandwich to lightly press it down. This will let the bread soak up some of the tapenade juices and build a lot of flavor. Set aside for 1 hour.
  • Unwrap the sandwich, slice it into 8 triangular pieces and serve.

Video

Notes

Makes 4 very large slices, 8 average-sized slices, or you can slice thinner to serve as appetizers.

Nutrition

Calories: 580kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 2822mg | Potassium: 242mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 607IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 237mg | Iron: 2mg
 
Muffaletta Sandwich

20 comments

  1. 5 stars
    I too fell in love with this sandwich while visiting NOLA and the Central Grocery. What a sandwich!

    I haven’t made this recipe, but it’s very similar to one I have made that’s delish!! The main difference is that this recipe seems a bit stingy with the olive oil.

    I also want to point out that the photo of the olive tapenade ingredients shows capers, but I don’t see them listed or used anywhere. But I bet that they’d be tasty in the tapenade (I love capers!!).

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Kevin. Oh yes, don’t forget the capers!! You can use more oil for sure, but just make sure the sandwich doesn’t get too soggy. Enjoy!

  2. 5 stars
    Central Grocery is definitely the place to get this sandwich. I’m not a fan of olives, this is the only way I’ll eat them.

  3. 5 stars
    I will be making 4 more of these for our entire family reunion! I can’t believe how delicious these sandwiches are. The muffaletta is now my very favorite.

  4. 4 stars
    If you later BOTH sides of the bread, then invert the top onto the bottom (using one hand to hold the meats tight to the bread), you can avoid the mess the tapenade makes because it’s loose.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Just don’t spill the meats and cheeses! Or get olive spread all over your hand! LOL. Enjoy, Linda.

  5. 5 stars
    Another WOW recipe here, Mike. Made it immediately. I wouldn’t change this one bit. I have to disagree with the comment about more cheese. Perfects as it is. Another winner!

  6. 4 stars
    (1) I love to use Boscoli Italian Olive Salad. (It’s sold by the jar (16 or 32 oz.) at Central Market and on Amazon, and probably at other places, but those are the ones that I know.) It’s got more oil than your recipe (which is very good but, me having lived in NOLA and frequented Central Market, I’m a traditionalist) and I love how the flavored oil soaks into that sturdy bread.

    (2) Hard Genoa salami should be the salami of choice; it really holds its own among all those meats. Also, sharp provolone, and more than you added.

    (3) I press my muffuletta, wrapped well, with a very heavy Dutch oven, for AT LEAST 1-2 hours on one side. Then I turn it over and press it for ANOTHER 1-2 hours. The longer the better. Face it, if you don’t seriously press and marinate it, the only folks who could take that sandwich would be Coneheads (and Ronnie’s mom)!

    (4) Don’t toss the bread you dug out of the loaf; it makes great soft or toasted breadcrumbs!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thank you for your input, Hollis. And of course as much cheese to your own personal preference, along with your other changes.

  7. Allen Tichenor

    Thank you for publishing your Muffaletta recipe. It’s quite tasty. I’m the fourth generation of a family that’s lived in New Orleans since the end of the Civil War. I am retired from a career in the hospitality/restaurant business and life long devote of New Orleans cuisine and its’ history. The Muffaletta’s is as follows: The first Muffaletta was produced and sold buy Joseph Anthony “Tony” Lavoi, an immigrant from Palermo, Sicily, in his grocery warehouse and bakery in 1901, from which he would sell it from a wooden wagon/push cart on the corner of Royal and Dumaine Streets, in the French Quarter, 1 1/2 blocks from the Progressive Grocery. Around 1903 Tony began suppling 6-8 Muffaletta sandwiches to Progressive Grocery for re-sale and later his Muffa Bread loaves, from which Progressive began making their Muffaletta, in-house. Frank Alfaon, Salvatore Lupo and Gaetano DeMajio, owners of the Progressive Grocery, not long after had a split in their business ownership and Salvatore Lupo opened the Central Grocery in 1906, where he also made and sold the Muffaletta. And, the popularity and selling of the Muffaletta continued to proliferate thereafter. As for the pickled Olives and Giardiniera topping, used on the Muffeletta, it’s origins are Sicilian being traced as far back as the Roman Empire. The topping used is actually a Sicilian and Italian Olive Condite, not a Tapenade, which is primarily of French origin. Recipes for the Olive Condite have evolved over time and quite varied. Unfortunately, nothing remains the same, and even the Central Groceries’ Olive Condite recipe, while still quite popular, has evolved, loosing some of its more costly original ingredients, richness and complex flavor. The same has occurred with the meats and cheeses they use. This said, I still enjoy their current tasty Muffaletta but definitely miss their original. Hope you enjoy this bit of history/back story. I really enjoy your site and keep up the great recipes!

  8. I’m not a big fan of this term ‘food porn’, but that’s got to be the greatest sandwich photo every taken!
    You just want to reach into your screen and GRAB it, along with a cold one!
    I watched a recent ‘video podcast’ about the great Italian (specifically, Sicilian) gastronomic influence on food and dining in New Orleans – making it one of the top ‘foodie’ destinations in the US.
    The vid features a stop at Central Grocery for one (I think it must be easily ~ $25 for one today) – and it didn’t look anywhere near as ‘hefty’ as this, with much less of the salad, which gives it its unique character.
    Muffaletta story begins at 2:00:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqsSu6C12yw&t=1s

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, BJK! I barely had to style anything, this sandwich is that awesome! I love it. Thanks for the link!

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