Photo by Robert Wigington

Recipe: Muffuletta

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This hearty sandwich in the Italian tradition was first created, so the story goes, in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1906. The critical elements include a selection of good-quality Italian meats and cheeses and a tasty olive salad. Our version includes a modified olive tapenade, but you could substitute a purchased tapenade.

Serves: 8-10 hearty wedges
Course: Lunch

Ingredients

  • 1 round Italian loaf, approx 10
  • 1/2 cup Olive Tapenade (recipe follows) (125 ml)
  • 1/4 lb each mortadella, Genoa salami, and ham, sliced (125 g)
  • 1/4 lb each provolone and mozzarella, sliced (125 g)
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichokes, sliced (optional) (125 ml)
  • 2 tbsp chopped peperoncini (optional, see Tip, below) (30 ml)

Instructions

Muffuletta

Slice loaf in half horizontally. Pull away and discard some of the soft bread dough from the inside of both the top and the bottom half, leaving a shell of bread about 1″ (2.5 cm) thick. Brush the hollowed bread shells with some of the oil from the Olive Tapenade, then spread the tapenade on the shells.

Arrange the meats and cheeses in even layers on the bottom half, with a layer of artichokes and peperoncini in the middle, if using.

Cover filling with the top half of loaf and press gently. Wrap securely in plastic film or foil. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Cut in wedges to serve.

Tips & variations

– The Muffuletta improves if made several hours, or up to a day, ahead and is a good sandwich to take on a picnic.

– Peperoncini, sometimes called Tuscan peppers, are small, hot, roasted peppers. In supermarkets, look for them in jars near the pickles or at the deli counter. You can substitute another pickled hot pepper.

– Try baking the Muffuletta. Wrap in foil and heat following the method as in Ham and Cheese Garlic Bread.

Olive Tapenade

Note: Make this spread ahead of time and store it in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to a week, keeping the surface covered with a film of olive oil. You’ll have more tapenade than needed for a Muffuletta, but it’s a versatile ingredient. Use it on other sandwiches (delicious with cheese and tomato) or as a spread with cream cheese, add a spoonful to vinaigrette for salads, or toss some in with pasta. Some ripe black olives have more flavour than others; if the finished tapenade seems a bit flat, add some lemon juice.

Combine olives, peppers, garlic, parsley, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is evenly chopped.

Add about half the olive oil and pulse briefly. Add remaining oil and pulse again. Combine well but leave some texture in the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little lemon juice if needed.

Makes about 2 cups (500 ml).