What is a muffuletta?
The word muffuletta refers to two things. First, a variety of round bread topped with sesame seeds and sourced from Sicily in Italy. Second, a typical sandwich from Louisiana and specifically the city of New Orleans.
This sandwich comes from the Italian populations that migrated to this part of the country at the end of the 19th century. As New Orleans gastronomy is the fruit of an incredible cultural mix, muffulettas can contain a variety of ingredients. However, the most iconic version of this sandwich is that of the Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter.
How to make muffuletta
The bread is usually 10 inches long, round, slightly flattened and covered with sesame seeds. Its crumb is close to the focaccia. A muffuletta contains many ingredients, most of which can be prepared in advance.
Olives (black and green) are mixed together with capers, peppers that are roasted, seeded and stripped of their skins as well as garlic, parsley and pickled vegetables called giardiniera in Italian. These vegetables are found in jars in all Italian grocery stores but can also be made at home by following any recipe for pickles. They usually contain a mixture of peppers, celery, carrot, cauliflower and pickles.
This mince is seasoned with oil and vinegar and must macerate for at least 3 hours so that all the flavors are perfectly combined. These marinated vegetables contribute fully to the identity of this sandwich. The bread is cut in half horizontally and optionally, some of its crumb can be removed.
Then, you must brush the bread with olive oil and add the vegetable mince. Then add cold cuts and cheeses in layers. Genoese salami, capicola, mortadella, provolone and mozzarella. The bread can be closed and slightly compressed.
Ideally you should wrap the sandwich in aluminum foil and let it sit for one hour before cutting it into triangles. This will help combine all the flavors, and is ideal for taking it with you during the festivities of Mardi Gras or on a picnic.
What is the origin of muffuletta?
Muffuletta is the creation of a Salvatore Lupo, a grocer at New Orleans Central Grocery on Decatur Street. The origin of this sandwich dates back to 1906. It is most likely the Italian and Sicilian immigrants who brought this variety of bread to Louisiana. Very numerous on the construction sites and in the districts of the port of the city, they quickly found the flavors of their country of origin by combining Italian cold meats and cheeses, Sicilian bread and crudités appreciated in Italy.
In Sicily in Italy, the muffuletta is also a bread associated with the Day of the Dead (November 2). It is mostly consumed in the city of Palermo, and its spelling may vary according to local dialects.
What are the variants of muffuletta?
If the muffuletta is ideally served cold, some places offer a grilled version that will make the bread much more crisp and melt the cheese. Many varieties of cheese or charcuterie can be used in a good muffuletta.
Provolone can be sweet or spicy, you can also replace the Genoese salami with salami with fennel or spicy salami, and capicola can be replaced with coppa or ham. You can also enjoy this sandwich with baked ham or ham with herbs.
Generally, a large amount of minced olives and raw vegetables can be prepared in advance to be able to prepare muffulettas several days consecutively. The sausages and cheeses that are used can be cut larger or smaller depending on whether the sandwich will be grilled or not.
- 2½ oz. green olives in oil pitted
- 2½ oz. black olives packed in oil pitted
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 small roasted red bell pepper chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 oz. giardiniera pickled Italian vegetables
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large muffuletta Sicilian bread
- 2 oz. Genoa salami finely sliced
- 2 oz. finely sliced capicola
- 2 oz. finely sliced mortadella
- 4 slices mozzarella
- 4 slices provolone
- Mix the olives, capers, chopped pepper, parsley, giardiniera and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse a few times until coarsely chopped until obtaining pieces of about ⅓ inch (1 cm).
- Transfer to a salad bowl. Add the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and mix.
- Cover the salad bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture macerate for 3 hours.
- Cut the muffuletta bread in half.
- On one of the two sides, spread a tablespoon of olive oil that is remaining.
- Spread each cut side generously with the olive salad, taking care to spread the juice evenly.
- Lay half of the salami on the lower half of the bread, followed by half of the mortadella, half of the capicola and half of the provolone. Repeat the layers with the rest of the meats and cheeses.
- Close the sandwich and gently press.
- For best results, wrap in foil and let stand for 1 hour before serving.
- Just before serving, using a sharp knife, cut into triangular wedges.