A Classic Italian American Sandwich
By: Lisa DeFalco and Dena Fenza
The Muffuletta sandwich is made in America with Italian parts. This sandwich, while it is filled with delicious Italian meats, cheese and vegetable condiments, is unique to New Orleans. It’s forerunners first appeared in the French Quarter as early as the 1890’s, when a large number of Sicilians came to the port of New Orleans. These immigrants settled and opened up businesses in the busy French Market. In fact, the lower area of the French Market became known as “Little Palermo”.
There are conflicting stories as to where the muffuletta was created. One theory states that the sandwich was created by a Sicilian immigrant named Salvatore Lupo at the Central Grocery Store. Farmers, and the people who worked in the nearby wharves and produce stalls would frequent this market. They loved the Sicilian style lunch items. However, traditionally they were all served separately. The workers would often buy the Sicilian bread called “the muffuletto” and all the cold cuts separately. Salvatore didn’t think this was efficient. So, using his Sicilian ingenuity, decided to slice open a loaf of round bread and stuff everything inside of it. It was then that this sandwich was born.
Another theory, however, states that the muffuletta was created by the Perrone family at the Progress Grocery Co, who continues to make the sandwich today.
But whatever it’s origin, the sandwich is amazing, and is now found in Italian Grocery stores not only in New Orleans but all over the country.
A traditional Muffuletta consists of a layered Italian meats, provolone and a vegetable salad. The salad is made up of olives, parsley, capers, roasted peppers and the star of the show a giardiniera. For those of you that don’t know giardiniera, it is pickled Italian vegetables. You can check out our post on Instagram from October 15 for our homemade version. It is fantastic, but if you don’t have the time to make it a store bought brand will do.
As for the Muffuleta recipe, there are some variations but one thing is always consistent, quality ingredients are key. Also, true muffuletta bread is covered in sesame seeds and is round and flat with a soft crust. If you can’t find something like this, just go with a round soft crust Italian bread that you find in the market.
Here is our version of this sandwich-
1 cup pitted mixed olives in oil
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons parsley leaves
⅔ cup giardiniera (Italian-style pickled veggies)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large muffuletta-style roll
⅓ pound thinly sliced sweet soppressata
⅓ pound thinly sliced mortadella
⅓ pound thinly sliced capicola
⅓ pound thinly sliced provolone cheese
In a food processor combine the olives, capers, peppers, parsley and giardiniera. Pulse about 10 times, or until it becomes tiny pieces. Put this mixture in a bowl and add the red wine vinegar and olive oil to the mixture.
Split the bread in half. Take 1/2 of the mixture and put it on top of one side of the loaf, and put the rest on the other side. Spread out evenly. Layer half of the mortadella on one side followed by the soppressata, capicola and the provolone. Repeat this step on the other side. Close the sandwich and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and leave it on your counter for about an hour.
Cut into pieces and serve.
The Muffuletta is one sandwich that actually gets better with time. It is also always served at room temperature, making it ideal party fare. It is even great for a picnic or a Mardi Gras celebration.
Be sure to watch our full IGTV tutorial on how to make this amazing sandwich posted on October 21st.