Classic Muffuletta
Classic Muffuletta

The classic New Orleans muffuletta is the world’s tastiest picnic sandwich—the olive salad and cold cuts sandwiched between sesame-crusted bread taste better the longer it sits.

This hearty meal-in-one sandwich is filled with a marinated olive salad and hearty Italian cold cuts. Let rest before serving to allow the salad’s garlic oil to seep into the bread. The longer the sandwich rests, the better it gets, which makes it ideal for a dinner ahead of time, a picnic, or in New Orleans for a ride on the parade route.

Rethinking the origins of the muffuletta

As with any iconic food, this popular New Orleans sandwich has a number of origin stories — some of which are disputed. Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Lupo is often credited with creating the muffuletta sandwich in 1906 at his Central Grocery Co. deli on Decatur Street in New Orleans. The Perrone family denies this and instead claims the sandwich for their own Italian deli, Progress Grocery Co., in 1924.

It’s understandable that a company would lay claim to a portable meal that’s simultaneously salty with olives and marinated vegetables, smoky with charcuterie, and creamy with Italian cheeses, all together a deeply flavorful and satisfying sum greater than its parts.

My theory is different: the sandwich was probably the work of a thrifty Sicilian housewife. She hollowed out the inside of a round boules known as a muffuletta in Sicily, then filled it with a salad of olives and vegetables, marinated in a heady concoction of garlic, olive oil, and either lemon juice or vinegar. She laid out cured meat and cheese and sealed it in a piece of muslin tied to the end of a pole.

Her husband slung it over his shoulder for a hard day’s work in the fields of Sicily. This practice may have migrated with the Sicilians when they arrived via New Orleans harbor between 1884 and 1924.

Muffletta, Muffaletta or Muffuletta?

The sandwich takes its name from the round, seeded Sicilian loaf in which it is assembled. The spelling varies according to regional irregularities in the Sicilian dialect: muffeletta, muffaletta, muffiletta, mufiletta, muffuletta, muffulettu, muffuletu, muffulitteḍḍu, muffulittuni or muffuletta.

Ta-may-to, ta-mah-to. I’m going with Muffuletta.

Different ways to layer muffuletta

bread: Muffuletta loaves — wide, round, flat, and covered in sesame seeds — are hard to find outside of New Orleans or Sicily. Any good soft but firm bread can be used, such as sourdough, ciabatta, or focaccia.

olive salad: Resist the temptation to elevate the humble ingredients in the salad with exotic or expensive olives. This recipe calls for green olives stuffed with kalamata and allspice, which are readily available at grocery stores. Likewise, The key is to use plenty of olive salad on your sandwich. Really cover and incorporate the bread—I recommend about 2 cups of olive salad for an 8- to 9-inch loaf.

cold cuts: A muffuletta is prepared with three types of cold cuts. Choose one from each category and make sure it’s sliced ​​very thin for a sandwich that’s rich in texture and flavor.

  1. cured: Prosciutto, Coppa, Capicola or Bacon
  2. Coarsely ground and cured: Sopressa, spicy or sweet soppressata, salami or pepperoni
  3. Emulsified: Bologna or Mortadella

Serve warm

A room temperature muffuletta is fine, but heated to just hot enough to melt the cheese is exponentially better. The melted cheese forms a fine connection with the olives, the garlic and the fruity olive oil. Bake in a 350°F oven, still wrapped in foil, until cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.

More classic deli sandwiches

  • Cubano (Cuban sandwich)
  • Italian sub sandwich
  • The ultimate club sandwich
  • Reuben Sandwich

Classic muffuletta

preparation time
25 minutes

rest time
2 hours

total time
2 hrs 25 mins

4 servings

Buy whole olives, not pre-chopped. They are more flavorful.

Instead of celery, carrot, and cauliflower, you can use giardiniera, a pickled vegetable mix available in jars at your local grocery store. Drain and finely chop the cucumbers. You will need about 1 1/2 cups.


  • For the olive salad
  • 1 small anchovy fillet, preserved in oil

  • Extra virgin olive oil, for the marinade

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped, pitted Kalamata olives

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped green olives stuffed with allspice

  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery (from 1/2 stalk)

  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot (from 1 small carrot)

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cauliflower florets

  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons drained and chopped capers

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

  • For the sandwich
  • 1 (8 to 9 inch) round, seeded muffuletta loaf

  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ​​salami

  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ​​Capicola

  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ​​mortadella

  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ​​mozzarella cheese

  • 4 ounces thinly sliced ​​provolone cheese (not smoked)


  1. Mash the anchovies:

    In a small bowl, add the anchovies and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mash the anchovies with a fork until dissolved in the oil. I like to use a wooden bowl because I find it easier to mash the anchovies against their textured sides.

  2. Add vegetables and spices:

    In a medium bowl, add the mashed anchovies with oil, kalamata and green olives, celery, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, capers, red wine vinegar, oregano, and black pepper. Stir to combine.

  3. Add olive oil and marinate:

    Add enough olive oil to just cover the salad. For best flavor, let marinate at least 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

    Stir the salad, taste and add more black pepper or vinegar to taste. It probably doesn’t need more salt because the olives, anchovies, and capers are salty enough.

    You have about 4 cups of olive salad, of which you use about 2 cups in the sandwich. Think of leftovers as a gift to toss with pasta, spoon over cream cheese for dipping, or make another muffuletta! Covered with oil and kept refrigerated for at least 1 month.

  4. Prepare bread:

    Cut the loaf in half horizontally and hollow out each half with your hands, removing the soft bread inside. This creates cavities for the filling. Leave 1/2 inch of soft bread near the crust, being careful not to tear the crust.

  5. Distribute the olive salad:

    Stir the salad again to re-incorporate the oil and seasonings, then spread over the 2 pieces of bread, about 2 cups total. Use the back of a spoon to really smear it into the bread and cover the entire surface.

  6. Assemble the meat and cheese:

    Layer the salami, capicola, mortadella, mozzarella and provolone on the bottom piece of bread. Carefully place the top piece of bread on top.

  7. Wrap it up and let it rest:

    Wrap the muffuletta tightly in foil and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to combine and the oil to soak into the bread.

  8. Surcharge:

    Remove the foil and cut the muffuletta into 4 wedges and serve.

    Wrap leftover sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Leftover olive salad will keep for 1 month if covered with olive oil and refrigerated in a sealed container.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!