Don’t let the funny name of this sandwich mislead you…it is a serious sandwich. According to Wikipedia, the muffaletta sandwich (named after muffaletta bread) was invented somewhat accidentally in New Orleans at the Central Grocery but it has a distinctly Italian (specifically Sicilian) flair. The sandwich was born when Sicilian farmers selling their produce at the Farmers’ Market would come to the Grocery for lunch and order some salami, ham, cheese, olive salad, and either Italian bread or a round muffuletta loaf. They would eat the different items separately while sitting on crates or stools which was a recipe for spilled olive salad and salami on the pavement. The owner of the grocery eventually suggested making a sandwich out of all the ingredients and after that customers just began asking for “muffulettas”. We wanted to make our muffaletta sandwich as authentic as possible (except for the bread since we couldn’t find Muffaletta bread!) and the olive salad is really what made our sandwich…it’s a symphony of flavors comprised of olives, garlic, pickled cauliflower, capers, celery, carrot, pepperoncini, onions, red wine vinegar and olive oil combined with Italian herbs, celery seed and pepper. Yes, it’s a flavor explosion. Especially when combined with thick layers of salami, ham, mortadella, two varieties of cheese and a sprinkle of arugula. The muffaletta can be served cold or toasted…Nathan wanted his cold but I LOVE toasted sandwiches. Given this crucial difference it’s amazing we get along so well. To each his (or her) own!
This wine was so so good with our sandwiches. It’s a fairly light red which I felt balanced the richness of the meat and cheese. It had flavors of blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and cherry that provided a great contrast to the savory. The flavors in the sandwich actually seemed to magnify the fruitiness and juiciness of the wine. This was a wine that was great on it’s own but even better with sandwich…definitely a winner!
Katryn and I visited this local brewery a few weeks ago so I wanted to pick up some of their beer to pair with something. I knew the muffaletta would need something with a little bite to it in order to cut through all the oil and pickled vegetables from olive salad but I didn’t want something that would overpower the sandwich. I was expecting to pick up a pale ale but I spotted this rye ale on the shelf and knew it would be perfect for drinking with the muffaletta! Rowdy pours a dark brown with a hint of red with a tan head and an earthy/musty smell of dried grains and grass. Upon drinking you’ll get a solid malt backbone which is contrasted with a dry spicy flavor from the rye and a nice bite from hops. The malt gives the beer enough body to stand up to the flavors of the sandwich while the rye and hops help to cleanse your palate.
Adapted from this recipe
1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
½ cup drained kalamata olives, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup roughly chopped pickled cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped carrot
½ cup pepperoncini, drained and chopped
¼ cup marinated cocktail onions, chopped
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
4 kaiser, ciabatta, or focaccia rolls (any sturdy but soft bread will do!)
8 slices thinly sliced Genoa salami
8 slices thinly sliced cooked ham
8 slices thinly sliced mortadella
8 slices sliced mozzarella cheese
8 slices sliced provolone cheese
Arugula, for garnish
In a medium bowl, combine the green olives, kalamata olives, garlic, cauliflower, capers, celery, carrot, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, celery seed, oregano, basil, black pepper, vinegar and olive oil. Mix together and transfer mixture into a glass container. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Cut rolls in half horizontally and spread each piece of bread with equal amounts olive salad, including oil. Layer ‘bottom half’ of each roll with 2 slices each of the salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella and Provolone. Replace ‘top half’ on each roll and cut sandwich in half.