The mighty Muffuletta sandwich—and what it teaches us about sandwich making

February 25, 2014

Mardi Gras is coming up and what better excuse to celebrate the food of New Orleans. The muffuletta sandwich might be the mightiest of all foods that hail from New Orleans and, well, even if you’re discovering this not around Mardi Gras time, it’s worth a watch. Because the muffuletta is no ordinary sandwich. Oh no, the muffuletta is the quintessential sandwich. A specimen that speaks to how all sandwiches be made.

In years past, I’ve celebrated the food of New Orleans by whipping up easy red bean gumbo or making jambalaya alongside my New Orleans-native brother-in-law. But this year, my role as school lunch queen (a self-appointed title, thank you very much!) has inspired me to take on the muffuletta, the mother of all sandwiches. I figure this New Orleans classic can serve double duty: help us celebrate Mardi Gras and also teach us a few things about how to construct a perfect sandwich.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating a mufuletta in New Orleans, allow me to break it down. It’s a sandwich that originated at the Central Grocery, an Italian deli opened in 1906 by a Sicilian immigrant, in the French Quarter of Louisiana.

Built on a large, round Sicilian loaf similar to focaccia, it’s piled high with olive salad, mortadella, salami, mozzarella, ham, and provolone. Sound like a pretty typical Italian sub? Not when made with a traditional olive salad, which is the key to making a proper muffuletta.

New Orleans Muffuletta sandwich recipe | One Hungry Mama

This sandwich looks delicious, right? And it’s educational, too. Let’s deconstruct this for a second.

Any good sandwich has a balance of flavors and textures. Everything you need to make a killer sandwich is present in a muffuletta:

  • Great, fresh bread
  • Acid from pickled vegetables
  • Crunch from the olive salad
  • Creaminess from fresh mozzarella balanced by the sharpness of provolone
  • Delicious meat. And lots of it!

You can buy olive salad in some states, but I say make your own. If you can’t find the ingredients you need to make a traditional version, improvise like I do! I use both black and green olives and mix them with roasted red peppers. I also throw in some lightly pickled cauliflower, celery and carrots made using my quick refrigerator pickles method. So easy!

Chop it all up, spread it on your sandwich, layer on the cheese and meat and, presto, a genius lunch—or dinner—is made. I like mine cold, but you can press this for a lightly toasty version, too. Either way, a mufuletta totally delicious and making one will teach you a thing or two about making sandwiches like a pro.

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