I can almost remember the exact date that I discovered the famous Muffuletta, the “original Italian sandwich” made famous in…Louisiana. It was on my very first visit to New Orleans, mid-September 1989. While my husband attended a conference, I happily occupied myself walking around the French Quarter, checking out the galleries and desiccated alligator heads on Royal St. and looking for a good place to have a little lunch by myself. Hungry, I stumbled into Central Grocery. I had no idea what a famous destination it was, but it looked like my kind of place. Dusty shelves straining under the weight of giant cans of olive oil, tins of sardines and all manner of olives and pickled things. There was a line at the deli, usually a good sign, so I took my place in it, among people much more savvy than myself. By the time I made it to the counter, I had been educated.
The Central Grocery’s famous Muffuletta was roughly the size of a large frisbee, easily enough to feed four people. It was comprised of sesame seeded Sicilian bread stuffed with olives, pickled veggies, meats and cheese. And dripping with olive oil. The deliciousness of this sandwich cannot be overstated. I polished it off in its entirety, sitting on a park bench in Jackson Square, but not before I had pulled it apart and wrote down every little thing I could identify so I could make it myself when I got home. (these were prehistoric times after all, there was no googling “what is a muffuletta”)
Now of course, you can find a million variations online, but I’m still assembling them based on my notes, scratched onto greasy sandwich wrapper back in 1989. So here it is- in honor of Fat Tuesday, the famous Muffuletta.
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted
- 1 cup green, pimento stuffed olives
- 1½ cups giardiniera (pickled veggies from a jar, with a tablespoon or two of the brining liquid)
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1 small roasted red pepper (from a jar, drained)
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 4 European-style bread rolls (not too thick or bulky)
- Genoa salami, sliced thin
- Capicola ham, sliced thin
- Provolone cheese, sliced thin
- Prosciutto, sliced thin
- Mortadella ham, sliced thin (if desired)
- In a food processor, pulse the olives, giardiniera, capers, roasted red pepper and garlic until just combined and chunky, not pureed. Place olive salad mixture into a bowl and stir in olive oil. Allow to sit for a couple of hours.
- Slice the rolls in half. If the bread is thick, scoop out a bit of the center to make room for the filling. Spread a thick layer of the olive salad mixture on both sides of the bread. Begin layering the meat and cheese filling, starting with salami, capicola, provolone, prosciutto and mortadella (if using).
- Carefully place the top on the sandwich, which may be a bit of a messy proposition. Press the top onto the sandwich and secure with a pick. It will be good and messy.