Muffuletta in many parts of the world is known as the hearty deli sandwich packed with cold cut meats and cheeses, as found in the city of New Orleans. This muffuletta actually has its origins in Sicily where a much simpler list of ingredients fill a round seeded bun and as tradition goes, is eaten on the Sicilian Festa dei Morti, “Day of the Dead”. Find out how to make both the New Orleans and Sicilian version of the muffuletta sandwich, and discover the fascinating story behind this popular treat!
The muffuletta (or muffoletta, moffoletta, muffoletto, muffulietta, depending on the dialect) derives its name from Sicilian dialect that means ‘soft and spongy bread’. This soft round bun is so versatile and many locals use it as a sandwich to fill with local hams and cheeses.
One particular occasion stands out however, which is the Festa dei Morti in November where an old tradition calls for a sandwich made with muffuletta filled with tomatoes, anchovies, oregano and primosale cheese to be eaten in the morning as a start to the festivities. In some parts of Sicily, the tradition remains, but in all parts of the region, you will find many bakeries and street food vendors selling sandwiches from freshly baked muffuletta buns at any time of the year.
Makes 6-7 muffuletta buns
In the Zesty Food section is featured a number of muffuletta sandwiches with delectable ingredients such as the Alici nella Meraviglia sandwich with anchovies and artichokes, and the Meravigliosa di Mare made with red shrimp and creamy stracciatella cheese. As you can tell, muffuletta is great to personalise to your taste – its spongy and crusty texture is sturdy enough to hold whichever fillings you choose. Find below how to make this bread, and the Italian version of a muffuletta sandwich, the most authentic Sicilian muffuletta that you will find on the Festa dei Morti, followed by a step by step recipe for the famous New Orleans muffuletta that over time, gave this simple bun its worldwide fame.
1. In a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add flour and crumb the yeast in the centre of the flour. With the mixer on low, gradually add some of the water to start working the dough. Add the honey and oil and continue mixing whilst adding small amounts of water until the dough starts to come together. Add salt, mix for a further 15 minutes until dough is smooth and starts to pull away from the bowl.
2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead lightly for about 5 minutes.
3. Form into a ball, place in a well oiled bowl, cover and set aside in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
4. Divide the dough into 6-7 portions, approximately 100 grams each. Form into balls, cover, and let rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until they have doubled in size.
5. Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly brush the tops of each piece with water, sprinkle with sesame seeds and place evenly on a lined baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crusty on top. They should feel hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Split the bread in half. Brush each half with olive oil, then lay the anchovies on the bottom half of the bread. Top with tomato slices, season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle oregano and cheese. Close the sandwich.
For 1 muffuletta:
Split the bread in half and divide the olive salad on both halves of the bread. Lay the salami on the bottom half of the bread followed by all the ingredients in the above order. Close the sandwich, serve.
Muffuletta is one of the many foods brought over to America from Italy, and in this case the credit goes to a man named Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian who immigrated to New Orleans in the early 1900s. His Italian foods store called Central Grocery opened in 1906, which is also where Salvatore began pitching an Americanised version of his beloved muffuletta from Sicily. It is thanks to Salvatore and his passion for food from his hometown that we find muffuletta sandwiches all over New Orleans today!