Loaded Muffuletta Grilled Cheese Recipe

It's hard to improve on a classic, but this loaded grilled cheese takes the New Orleans signature muffuletta sandwich and turns it into a gooey, stretchy grilled cheese that screams comfort food with every bite. 

According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, this iconic New Orleans sandwich originated from the city's Italian immigrant population, who developed it as a portable lunch option for workers. Traditionally, the muffuletta features a combination of Italian cured meats, cheeses, and a tangy olive salad all layered between two halves of sesame-topped Sicilian bread. The traditional meats and cheese often included soppressata (Italian dried salami), mortadella (Italian cooked pork sausage), and capicola (Italian dry-cured ham).

Our loaded muffuletta grilled cheese takes this iconic sandwich to new heights by incorporating tangy giardiniera pickles and two kinds of cheese — provolone and mozzarella — for maximum cheese pull. This grilled cheese creation pays homage to the rich culinary heritage of the muffuletta while offering a deliciously indulgent twist anyone can get behind.

Gather the ingredients for this loaded muffuletta grilled cheese

To make this muffuletta sandwich, you'll need an assortment of ingredients that represent the best of Italian cuisine. From your nearest Italian deli or well-stocked market, you'll want to grab giardiniera pickles, roasted red bell peppers, pitted black and green olives, garlic cloves, lemon zest, and olive oil to create the tangy, briny olive salad that is the signature component of this iconic sandwich. You'll also need a piece of focaccia bread, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, soppressata, mortadella, and capicola to layer between the bread, creating a harmonious blend of savory and melty textures. If you cannot find one or all of these deli meats, feel free to choose any cured, dried, and fresh deli meats made from pork and beef.

Step 1: Process the spread

Prepare the olive spread: In a food processor, pulse the giardiniera pickles, roasted bell pepper, black olives, green olives, garlic, lemon zest, and olive oil until they are roughly minced but still chunky.

Step 2: Slice the focaccia

Slice the focaccia bread horizontally to create a top and bottom layer.

Step 3: Spread the olive mixture

Spread the olive mixture evenly on both sides of the focaccia.

Step 4: Layer the bottom half

Layer the bottom half of the focaccia with half of the provolone, half of the mozzarella, and all of the soppressata, mortadella, and capicola. Top with the remaining provolone and mozzarella.

Step 5: Close the sandwich

Close the sandwich with the top half of the focaccia.

Step 6: Heat a cast iron skillet

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.

Step 7: Brush the sandwich with oil

Brush the sandwich on both sides with more olive oil.

Step 8: Grill the sandwich

Grill the sandwich pieces on the heated cast iron pan until the cheese melts and the bread is crispy, about 5 minutes per side.

Step 9: Flatten the sandwich

Press from above with another pan to flatten the sandwich.

Step 10: Cut sandwich in half

Cut the large focaccia sandwich into two halves.

Step 11: Serve hot

Serve hot.

What is giardiniera, and what can I use as a substitute?

Giardiniera is a classic Italian condiment consisting of pickled garden vegetables. Traditionally, it includes cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and sometimes olives or hot peppers, all marinated in a vinegar-based brine with herbs and spices. The vegetables are cured in the brine, resulting in a tangy, slightly spicy, and crunchy relish that adds a burst of flavor to various dishes.

If you don't have giardiniera, there are several substitutes that you can use in this recipe. One option is to make your own quick-pickled vegetable mixture by thinly slicing bell peppers, carrots, and celery and marinating them in a vinegar solution with garlic, salt, and your preferred seasonings. Alternatively, you can use a store-bought mixture of pickled spicy peppers or antipasti. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can opt for a simple bread and butter pickle relish or dill pickle relish. Another option is to skip the giardiniera and simply make the spread with a combination of olives, roasted red peppers, and a spoonful of capers to replicate the briny, tangy flavor profile of the pickles.

Can I make this muffuletta grilled cheese vegetarian?

You can make this muffuletta grilled cheese recipe vegetarian by swapping out the meat components for plant-based alternatives or simply omitting them altogether. One approach is to replace the cured meats with plant-based deli slices or strips made from soy, seitan, or other plant-based proteins. These can mimic the texture and savory umami flavor of the traditional meats. Alternatively, you can opt for grilled or roasted vegetables, such as eggplant, portobello mushrooms, or marinated artichoke hearts, which can provide a meaty texture and depth of flavor.

If you prefer to keep it simple, you can omit the meat components entirely and focus on the delicious combination of cheeses, the tangy olive salad, and the hearty focaccia bread. The giardiniera pickles and olive salad will still deliver a punch of briny, tangy flavors, while the cheeses will provide a rich, melty texture. The most important part of making this grilled cheese is to layer the ingredients thoughtfully, ensuring a balance of flavors and textures with each bite — we promise you won't even miss the meat.

Loaded Muffuletta Grilled Cheese Recipe
5 from 4 ratings
This quick and simple grilled cheeses uses focaccia, two cheeses, three Italian cured meats, and a pickle-olive spread meats for a perfect, melted sandwich.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
2
servings
Side view of two slices of gooey, melty grilled cheese
Total time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
  • ½ cup giardiniera pickles
  • ½ roasted red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup pitted black olives
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ lemon, zested
  • ⅛ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 (8-ounce) focaccia bread piece
  • 4 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1 ounce soppressata (Italian dried salami), thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce mortadella (Italian cooked pork sausage), thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce capicola (Italian dry-cured ham), thinly sliced
Directions
  1. Prepare the olive spread: In a food processor, pulse the giardiniera pickles, roasted bell pepper, black olives, green olives, garlic, lemon zest, and olive oil until they are roughly minced but still chunky.
  2. Slice the focaccia bread horizontally to create a top and bottom layer.
  3. Spread the olive mixture evenly on both sides of the focaccia.
  4. Layer the bottom half of the focaccia with half of the provolone, half of the mozzarella, and all of the soppressata, mortadella, and capicola. Top with the remaining provolone and mozzarella.
  5. Close the sandwich with the top half of the focaccia.
  6. Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.
  7. Brush the sandwich on both sides with more olive oil.
  8. Grill the sandwich pieces on the heated cast iron pan until the cheese melts and the bread is crispy, about 5 minutes per side.
  9. Press from above with another pan to flatten the sandwich.
  10. Cut the large focaccia sandwich into two halves.
  11. Serve hot.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 965
Total Fat 65.3 g
Saturated Fat 25.5 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 118.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 49.2 g
Dietary Fiber 3.6 g
Total Sugars 4.3 g
Sodium 2,690.0 mg
Protein 47.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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