Are you wondering what to serve up for Superbowl Sunday? Admittedly, the pandemic has scaled back everyone’s plans, and you might not be gathering in a large group. But just in case you’ve got your own pandemic bubble to feed, or even if you want to make this and give some to neighbors, this sandwich is always a hit.
It’s said to have been created by Italian immigrants in New Orleans. However, many years ago, I was reading a classic Italian book called “Il Gattopardo” and surprisingly came upon a reference to it, when the protagonist, a prince, is on a hunting excursion with the local church organist. “Bevevano il vino tiepido delle borracce di legno, accompagnavano un pollo arrosto venuto fuori dal carniere di Don Fabrizio con i soavissimi muffoletti cosparsi di farina cruda che don Ciccio aveva portato con se.” In English, the title translates to “The Leopard” and the text is as follows: “They drank tepid wine from wooden bottles with a roast chicken from Don Fabrizio’s haversack, with the sweet muffoletti dusted with raw flour which Don Ciccio had brought with him.” If you haven’t read the book, it deals with the changes in Sicilian society during the risorgimento — Italy’s unification movement. It’s one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature and is widely translated in many languages, including English. It was even made into an excellent movie with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale.
But I digress. Back to the muffaletta as we know it, which many say was first made here in the U.S. at Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street in New Orleans by Salvatore Lupo, an immigrant from Sicily. My son-in-law and his wife, who live in New Orleans, sent us a jar of olive salad last year from Central Grocery, so naturally we needed to follow through and make our own muffuletta. This jar made enough for two muffaletta sandwiches. If you can’t find olive salad at a store near you, you can even order it from Central Grocery here or even from Amazon, here.
I added some other ingredients to the olive salad, including fresh celery, parsley, marinated artichoke hearts, and roasted red peppers. You can choose to add more or less of whatever you like. There are no rules.
Aside from the olive salad, you need good bread, Italian cold cuts, and cheese. A muffaletta is traditionally made with a round loaf, and in fact, I’ve made it in the past with a round loaf as you see below. I used mortadella, Genoa salami, coppa and capicolla, but a finocchiona, prosciutto or soppressata would be delicious here too. I used provolone cheese, but feel free to choose fontina, mozzarella or whatever floats your boat.
You can break with tradition and use a long ciabatta loaf instead of a round one, as I did the last time I made it. My local bread shop had a great assortment.
I came home with this beauty and sliced it in half lengthwise.
I scooped out some of the insides, but you can leave as much or as little interior bread as you like. Then I spread some of the olive salad on the bread.
I added a layer of the meats and cheese, then more olive salad, another layer of the meats and cheeses, finishing off with the olive salad next to the bread.
You’ll need to weigh it down with something heavy, so I covered both sides with parchment paper and placed a heavy cast iron grill pan on top. It went into the refrigerator for at least two hours. You can leave it even longer, but if you keep it weighed down in the refrigerator overnight, you risk getting the bread too soggy from the olive salad.
Last year I took it to my cousin’s Superbowl Party and the ciabatta sliced up easily into at least ten generous pieces.
Or just enjoy Super-Bowl size portions with your own small family.
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- 1 large round loaf, or long ciabatta
- ¼ lb. of Genoa salami
- ¼ lb. of capocollo
- ¼ lb. mortadella
- ¼ lb. of coppa
- (orr use any combination of Itaian cold cuts you want, including soppressata, finocchiona, prosciutto etc.)
- ¾ lb. provolone cheese (or fontina or mozzarella)
- 1 jar of olive salad
- POSSIBLE ADDITIONS TO THE SALAD:
- ¼ cup sliced celery
- 1 small jar of artichoke hearts, chopped
- roasted red peppers, chopped
- a few tablespoons minced parsley
- chopped up jarred giardiniera
- Slice the bread lengthwise and scoop out some of the interior bread.
- Mix the add-ons you like to the jarred olive salad, and spread some of it on the bottom of the bread.
- Add a layer of each of the sliced meats, a layer of cheese, more of the olive salad.
- Repeat with the meats and cheese, ending up with the olive salad.
- Cover with the top portion of the bread, then place some parchment paper, or plastic wrap on top.
- Press down with a heavy weight and refrigerate at least two hours to compact the sandwich and blend flavors.
- Be careful not to leave it pressed more than six or eight hours or the bread may become too soggy.