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What is Muffaletta?

New Orleans is known for its muffaletta sandwiches.
Salami is commonly used to make a muffaletta sandwich.
Muffaletta often includes mortadella.
The bottom half of a muffaletta sandwich is slathered with olive salad.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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Muffaletta or muffuletta is a type of Sicilian bread. The bread is traditionally baked in the form of a flat round sprinkled with sesame seeds. It is dense, with a texture and flavor which is often compared to focaccia, a well-known Italian bread. This bread can be obtained in some Italian markets and bakeries, and some cooks like to make it at home.

In the United States, muffaletta has become famous as the star ingredient of the muffaletta sandwich, a New Orleans specialty which appears to have originated in the Central Grocery in 1906. This sandwich is very highly regarded by some Louisiana residents, a few of whom go as far as to claim that the muffaletta is “the best sandwich in the world.” Visitors to New Orleans who are in the know about this famous sandwich often make a point of stopping in a deli to buy a “muff,” as the locals call it.

The muffaletta sandwich starts with a loaf of muffaletta which is halved. A thick layer of olive salad is used to cover the bottom half, followed by layers of meat and cheese. Cured Italian pork products like salami, mortadella, and ham are common, along with Emmentaler and provolone cheeses. The muffaletta may be dressed with a bit of mustard before being closed and wrapped for sale.

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As a general rule, a single muff is a lot of food. Many people prefer to buy the sandwich in halves or quarters if they are eating alone. Others may split a muffaletta with friends. The sandwich mingles the slightly acidic flavor of the olives with the creaminess of the cheese and the salty notes from the meat to create a rather harmonious whole. It is a popular picnic and lunch item, since it can be easily wrapped and carried for a few hours.

Residents of New Orleans often have preferred delis and restaurants for their muffalettas. It is still possible to buy the sandwich at the Central Grocery, and Progress Grocery and the Come Back Inn are also noted for their muffalettas. It is also possible to make this sandwich at home, of course, and the muffaletta is sturdy enough to hold up in the fridge overnight, for people who want to make it in advance. For people who want the distinctive New Orleans taste, olive salad can be shipped from specialty grocers to most regions of the world.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 4

I don't know what the traditional muffaletta lovers would think about this but there are now vegetarian and vegan versions of the muffaletta sandwich. Instead of being made with charcuterie items like salami, the vegetarian version is made with assorted veggies. I think the one common item in both is the olive spread.

I think that as more people have preferred to eat vegetarian and vegan, specialty grocers and sandwich shops are trying to cater to those customers as well and have started making vegetarian versions of everything.

I've had the vegetarian muffaletta sandwhich both at a shop and homemade and I think it's delicious. I can't say that it is better than the original because the original just has a different taste from the meat. But it's quite good for a vegetarian muffaletta, especially with fresh bread, homemade olive spread and fresh organic veggies like bell peppers and mushrooms.

John57
Post 3

The best part about making your own muffaletta sandwiches is you add your favorite meat and cheese and make the best sandwich suited to your taste.

I like to use half mozzarella and provolone cheese when making my sandwiches. Another one of my favorite things to do is add a little bit of anchovy paste to the olive mix. This adds just a little bit of extra punch to the mix.

If you don't like the taste of anchovies this is something that you can easily leave out. The pimento stuffed olives are a must have though!

julies
Post 2

After I had my first muffaletta sandwich, I enjoyed it so much I began making them at home. I think the key is in the olive mix and letting it sit for awhile before you put it on the sandwich to let all the flavors blend together.

Another tip is when you mix this up, you can store the extra in a glass jar in the refrigerator for a few weeks to use again.

Mykol
Post 1

On my first visit to New Orleans, I had to try a muffaletta sandwich. Because I like all the ingredients that are in a traditional muffaletta, I did not have any worries that I would not like it. I just didn't realize how tasty it would be!

You probably wouldn't like it much if you don't like the taste of olives, but for me that is the best part. It mixes perfectly with the meat and cheese. I also enjoy mustard on my sandwiches and this is the perfect way to top it off.

A whole sandwich is more than one person can eat at one sitting. I put what I couldn't eat in the refrigerator in my hotel room and ate the rest of it later on. It was just as good the second time around. A muffaletta sandwich with some chips and a drink is the perfect lunch for me anytime.

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