Mini muffuletta sandwiches are loaded with a taste of New Orleans. These bite-sized sandwiches are layered with sliced meat, cheese, and salty olive salad.
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Not long ago, my kids asked me what I would want as my last meal. As I prepared the sandwiches for this post, I realized that a muffuletta sandwich would have to be at the top of my list. It’s by far my absolute favorite sandwich.
What is a muffuletta?
The muffuletta (pronounced muh-fuh-let-uh, though you may hear some Cajuns pronounce it muh-fuh-lot-uh) is a the brainchild of Salvatore Lupo, an Italian immigrant from Sicily who opened the Central Grocery in New Orleans in 1906. It is from this diminutive little Italian market on Decatur Street in the heart of New Orleans that I had my very first muffuletta. Central Grocery’s muffulettas are as big around as a dinner plate and several inches thick. The bread is layered with a variety of Italian deli meats, creamy provolone cheese, Swiss cheese slices, olive oil and a salty chopped olive salad.
Salvatore’s daughter, Marie Lupo Tusa, described how her father came up with the idea in her 1980 cookbook, Marie’s Melting Pot:
“One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich. The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery. Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian. Every day they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch. They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread. In typical Sicilian fashion they ate everything separately. The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees. My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion. He experimented and found that the thicker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich. In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.”
Believe it or not, the market is still selling its iconic sandwiches 117 years later, though at the time of this post’s last update, the original Decatur Street location is still undergoing reconstruction after sustaining considerable damage from Hurricane Ida in 2021.
Ingredients and tools you’ll need
I decided to make my easy mini muffulettas into a mini version so they’re easier to serve to a crowd. However, just like their namesake, they are several inches thick and end up being quite a mouthful.
With three types of deli meat and two types of cheese, this is not going to be the cheapest sandwich to make. However, if you find yourself with a muffuletta craving and you don’t live anywhere near the French Quarter, it is cheaper than a trip to the Big Easy.
To make this mini muffuletta recipe, you will need:
- 1 package of 12 dinner rolls – the round Italian loaf with sesame seeds traditionally served with a muffuletta is impossible to find outside of the New Orleans area (I’ve even searched online, no dice). I chose dinner rolls because I wanted to be able to easily layer my meat and cheese, and then cut it into smaller servings. Other crusty bread options are ciabatta bread, small ciabatta rolls, a baguette or French rolls.
- 1 pound sliced hard salami
- 8 ounces sliced ham – I used Black Forest ham.
- 12 ounces sliced provolone – if you can’t find provolone, you can substitute with sliced mozzarella cheese.
- 12 ounces sliced Swiss cheese
- 8 ounces sliced mortadella – mortadella is the Italian predecessor to our modern-day bologna. I was able to find mortadella in the specialty meats section of my grocery store. However, if you can’t find it, consider substituting it with actual bologna or additional ham slices.
- 2 cups olive salad – Central Grocery’s olive salad can be purchased from their website or on Amazon. It’s made with green olives, black olives, chopped roasted red peppers, Italian seasoning, red wine vinegar You can also make your own homemade olive salad.
How to make mini muffuletta sandwiches
Lay the rolls out on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Gently remove the roll tops and set aside. Don’t cut the bottoms of the rolls apart. Leave them stuck together.
On the cut side of the roll bottoms, put down two layers of salami, followed by two layers of ham, slices of provolone, Swiss cheese and slices of Mortadella. Top with another layer of salami. Then spread the tangy olive salad evenly over the top. Return the bread tops. Use the cuts in the tops of the rolls as guides to cut the muffaletta sandwich into individual servings.
While you can serve the sandwiches at this point, they really benefit from sitting in the fridge for 24 hours to let the flavors develop. Cover or wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Storage and freezing instructions
Storage. Mini muffulettas should be wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator within two hours. Eat within four days.
Freezing. Wrap the muffulettas in plastic wrap then aluminum foil. Store the sandwiches in an area of the freezer where they will not get crushed. Eat within three months. Thaw completely before serving.
More deli sandwich recipes
Mini Muffuletta Sandwiches
- 1 package of 12 dinner rolls
- 16 ounces sliced salami
- 8 ounces sliced ham
- 12 ounces sliced provolone
- 12 ounces sliced Swiss cheese
- 8 ounces sliced mortadella
- 2 cups olive salad
- Lay the rolls out on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the rolls in half lengthwise.
- Gently remove the tops of the rolls and set aside. Don’t cut the bottoms of the rolls apart. Leave them stuck together.
- Put down two layers of salami, followed by two layers of ham, provolone, Swiss cheese and Mortadella. Top with another layer of salami.
- Spread the olive salad evenly over the top layer of salami.
- Return the tops of the rolls. Use the cuts in the tops of the rolls as guides to cut the sandwiches into individual servings.
- Cover or wrap the sandwiches in plastic wrap and let them set in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving. Serve cold.