Just like beignets and gumbo, the muffaletta is a quintessential part of New Orleans cuisine. Many people had their first experience with the iconic sandwich at Central Grocery on Decatur Street. Central Grocery opened its doors in the heart of the French Quarter in 1906. Its first owner was Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian sandwich-maker who came up with the legendary muffaletta, also spelled muffaletta. The sandwich became an easier way to serve farmers who would stop by for a traditional Sicilian lunch where everything (cold cuts, cheese, bread) was eaten separately, so Lupo sliced open a whole loaf of his Sicilian sesame bread and stuffed everything inside.
There are many ways to make it at home, but this comes as close to the real thing as possible. A whole muffaletta is served on a round loaf of bread about eight inches in diameter and fully two-inches tall. Bread not included, the sandwich weighs in at almost two pounds! Eating a whole sandwich in one sitting seems impossible and, in fact, Central Grocery sells half- and quarter-sandwiches for that reason.
The key ingredient is the olive salad mix. Ideally, you want to make the sandwich an hour or two before eating it so the juices from the olive mix can soak into the bread, which makes this a perfect picnic dish. You can make a loaf of muffaletta bread at home, but a purchased round Italian loaf will do nicely in a pinch.
Gather the ingredients.
Cut round bread loaf in half horizontally.
Spread half the bottom portion with olive salad mix, then layer on meats and cheeses.
Cover with top of bread. Ideally, the sandwich should be made an hour or more in advance and then tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to enable the juices to soak into the bread.
Slice into quarters and serve.
Appetizer- or canapé-sized versions of this recipe can be made on slices of baguette.