Classic Muffuletta Recipe

Classic Muffuletta Recipe

When we think of New Orleans, we tend to think of the French-inspired Cajun and Creole food like gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée, and boudin. While New Orleans is rich in French culture and cuisine, it shares its robust history with many regions, a prominent one being Sicily. Sicilians who settled in New Orleans in the early 1900s created a community now known as Little Palermo that was home to Italian farmers, bakers, grocers, and vendors who brought with them the food and traditions of southern Italy (via 64 Parishes). One of these foods was muffuletta bread, a light, fluffy, large round loaf that became the base to one of the most famous cold cut sandwiches in the nation.

Originally sold as a loaf to be eaten alongside olives and deli meats, muffuletta bread became the perfect vessel for loading with olive salad and savory meats. That said, muffulettas can be made a hundred different ways with various meats, vegetables, and cheeses. Our recipe below, written by developer Michelle McGlinn, includes three different meats and a super-simple homemade olive salad that can satisfy any olive lover. It's easy to put together and feeds a crowd, and it may just be your new favorite lunch.

Gather the ingredients for a classic muffuletta

Of course, we need to talk about the bread. Muffuletta bread is a light, fluffy, large, and round loaf of bread that is cut in half horizontally to use for sandwiches. In case you're wondering why you've never seen it, it's likely because you don't live in New Orleans where Sicilians settled and sold their bread. Try looking in Italian markets, especially those that sell muffuletta sandwiches. If you still can't find it, you can switch to any large, light loaf, or use hamburger buns and make minis. Or, you can do what our developer McGlinn did, and use pambazo bread from the Mexican grocery, which is similar in size, shape, and texture.

From there, you'll need black and green pimento olives, premade giardiniera, chopped pepperoncini, cocktail onions, garlic, oil, oregano, mortadella, soppressata, provolone, and ham. If you're missing anything, don't like peppers, or prefer Swiss to provolone, don't sweat it. The sandwich can be altered, just make sure to use plenty of olives and good lunch meat.

Whip up an olive relish

Like giardiniera, the olive salad used on muffulettas is mostly pickled items chopped up and doused in oil. If you don't like spicy giardiniera, we recommend swapping it for carrots and cauliflower. The olive salad is briney and salty thanks to the heavy use of olives, but if you don't like olives, we still recommend giving the relish a try. When slathered across bread and topped with meat and cheese, the salt is a welcome addition, and our use of giardiniera is a pleasant spicy surprise.

To make the relish you'll need a food processor or blender. You could chop it all by hand, but it would take a long time to get the pieces the right size. Pulse the olives, giardiniera, pepperoncini, onions, garlic, oil, and oregano so they chop into pieces rather than blend into an olive smoothie (sorry for the visual). Once the veggies are chopped finely, the relish is done. Easy, right?

Building the muffuletta

Slice your bread in half horizontally to have one large top and one large bottom. Spread the olive relish across the bottom evenly, using about half the spread across the bottom breads and reserving the rest for the top. Smooth the olive salad flat, then begin layering meats and cheeses onto the bottom bun. There's no specific order, nor do you need to use the exact amounts we recommend; fill the sandwich to your heart's desire. For ours, we layered the mortadella first, then the hot soppressata, a layer of cheese, and then a layer of ham. Once the meats are layered, carefully spoon the remaining olive relish on the top layer (we thought ham held the relish the best) and place the top bun. Firmly press the sandwich down to compress the many layers.

Serving a classic muffuletta

While you can enjoy the muffuletta right after building it, it's actually best enjoyed a day later, and especially after sitting at room temperature for an hour or so. If you have the time, wrap the muffuletta tightly in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight, then pull it out and bring it to room temperature the next day. You'll notice the flavors change and mesh together this way, making it a more delicious sandwich.

When ready to serve, cut the large sandwich into quarters so everyone gets a corner. If your bread is smaller than typical muffuletta bread, you could also slice the sandwich in half to serve. Muffulettas are fun to serve for soup and sandwich night at home, and are also such a treat to bring to parties, where you can cut each quarter in half to make appetizer-sized slices and serve with negronis.

Classic Muffuletta Sandwich Recipe
4.6 from 41 ratings
This classic muffuletta sandwich features various cold cuts, cheese, and a zesty olive relish.
Prep Time
Cook Time
whole sandwich with relish on table
Total time: 15 minutes
  • 1 cup pimiento-stuffed queen olives
  • ¼ cup black olives
  • ¼ cup hot giardiniera
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pepperoncini
  • 5 pickled cocktail onions
  • 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 (8-inch) round breads
  • ½ pound sliced mortadella
  • ½ pound sliced soppressata
  • 8 slices provolone
  • ½ pound sliced ham
  1. Combine the olives, giardiniera, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, garlic, oil, and oregano in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Slice each piece of bread in half horizontally. Divide the olive relish into 4 portions. Spoon 1 portion on the bottom of each bread, about ½ cup each.
  3. Layer the mortadella, soppressata, provolone, and ham on top of the olive relish. Spoon the remaining 2 portions of relish on top of the ham.
  4. Top each sandwich with the top piece of bread and press down firmly. Slice each sandwich into quarters to serve.
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