Signor Salvatore Lupo, the proprietor of New Orleans Central Grocery, invented this Sicilian inspired sandwich in 1906. A combination of cured Italian meats (salami for certain and Mortadella or proscuitto or Coppa or ham), an Italian smoke style cheese, preferably provolone, a nuttier flavored cheese like Fontina and the defining ingredient, olive salad all layered in a round Sicilian loaf of bread (called Muffuletta) make this one of the most flavorful sandwiches ever.
Reminiscent of Sir John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich’s brilliant and entirely accidental invention of meat held between two slices of bread, the Muffuletta was Salvatore’s creative solution for his hungry wharf worker customers who wanted lunches containing several kinds of cured meat, a couple of different cheeses, fresh round Sicilian bread and tasty condiments that could be eaten in their laps on the market’s stairs. So Salvatore cut the round loaves in half horizontally, added the meats and cheeses and then put several condiments together with olive oil into a tasty mixture he called olive salad.
An instant hit that still is sold at the same Central Grocery location, Savatore named it Muffuletta after the traditional round bread.
As with most American foods, lots of different sandwiches including some that have little if any resemblance to the layered cured meat original, are labeled Muffuletta. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a Vegan Muffuletta appear on a menu in Malibu.
Essential ingredients for this picnic perfect sandwich are cured meats and cheeses of at least two varieties and the olive mixture, all layered within a round Italian bread.
- If it drips when you open it, it is not meat meant for a Muffuletta. This is a big, powerful taste experience, not a venue for paper-thin slices of cheap imitations or rubbery tasteless cheese wannabes. Use good cured meats and good cheese.
- While a four or five-layered sandwich can look sumptuous, it takes a hippopotamus to get a bite in one try. Solution? Make this sandwich a day ahead, weight it for 8 hours or so to press the contents and serve all those flavors in wedges that offer one easy bite at a time.
- This is not a sandwich for hard-crusted bread that will tear your mouth apart. Muffuletta crust should be just spongy enough to support the meats and cheese. I recommend smoother crusted breads like La Brea.
1, 8” round loaf Italian style bread
½ cup olive salad (recipe follows)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. dry Italian sliced salami or Cotta
2 oz. Mortadella or ham, sliced
2 oz. smoked Provolone style cheese, sliced
2 oz. Fontina cheese, sliced
10-12 pitted Calamata olives
10-12 pitted green olives
1 quarter roasted red bell pepper
2 tbs. oven or sun dried tomatoes
2 tbs. drained capers
2 slices yellow onion (medium size)
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
10 large leaves fresh basil, broken into smaller pieces
Leaves from 2 stems fresh oregano
1/8 tsp. dehydrated red chili pepper flakes
- Cut bread loaf in half horizontally. Pick out center of top and bottom to make wells in each and save bread for another use (breadcrumbs)
- Brush olive oil over the interiors of both halves of bread.
- Put olives, tomatoes, capers, onion, garlic and herbs in processor and pulse to coarse chop. Add bell pepper, dehydrated pepper flakes and remaining olive oil and pulse once or twice to combine.
- Spread olive salad over inside of top and bottom halves of bread, saving some to include in the layering.
- Begin layering on the bottom half of the bread with the salami, then cheese, then remaining olive salad then meat, then cheese. Put top half of bread over the layered bottom and completely wrap the sandwich in foil. Place it on a plate and weight it with 2-3 lbs. using a heavy pan or books. Leave it in a cool spot for 8 hours or overnight.
- To Serve: unwrap it and carefully cut it into eight segments. If you plan to take it on a picnic, rewrap it tightly.