These Muffaletta Panini are a twist on the classic New Orleans’ sandwich, and they’re the perfect way to celebrate Mardi Gras!
The other day, I was driving out to pick up Robbie from preschool, and I flipped the radio onto a local station that’s broadcast by Siena College. This station is a mix between awesome songs, public radio and talk show. On Sunday mornings, the lineup includes 3 hours of polka music. I’m not kidding. But during the week, I can typically count on this station to broadcast some really cool songs that I can’t typically find on the radio.
Sure enough, when I turned the radio on, Mississippi River by Janis Joplin was just starting. Mississippi River was one of Janis’ earlier songs, and it doesn’t have the same fame as her big hits. But it’s still a solid song. It’s a mix of country + bluegrass, and it just makes you want to start tapping your foot. “Well, I’m going down that Mississippi River, yes I am, yes I am / Well, I’m going down that Mississippi River, yes I am, yes I am.”
I lived in Louisiana for a number of years after college, and the Mississippi River is just an incredible thing. It slowly churns from Minnesota all the way down to New Orleans, and it’s just mesmerizing to watch. When Laura and I were living in Atlanta, we made the road trip to south Louisiana a couple of times. (Unfortunately, the road trip from upstate New York to New Orleans is a bit too much for us these days.)
On one of those trips, we got a muffaletta sandwich from the iconic Central Grocery on Decatur St. in the French Quarter. We then grabbed a couple of cold Abita beers and walked a block over to the banks of the Mississippi River. I think we spent about an hour just sitting there eating our muffaletta sandwich and watching the steamboats and barges go up and down the river. For me, that is quintessential New Orleans.
With Mardi Gras coming up soon, I decided to recreate this classic New Orleans sandwich here at home. This Muffaletta Panini is packed with Italian meats and a generous amount of olive spread. The olive spread is the key to these Muffaletta Panini. Truthfully, I didn’t really like olives until about 5 years ago. I wanted to like them. The idea was fun. But the taste just didn’t do it for me. But I kept trying olives until I finally got on board…and last night, I was eating the leftover olive spread from these Muffaletta Panini as a dip. Pita chips + olive spread = delicious!
A classic muffaletta is typically made on a round loaf of Italian bread, and it’s stuffed with cured meats, olives and marinated veggies. Sound a little odd? Sure. Delicious? Absolutely! I mean who puts olives on a sandwich? (Hint: Try it.)
Instead of using the round loaf of bread, I picked up some ciabatta rolls in the store the other day. After packing those rolls with meat, cheese and as much olive spread as I could possibly fit, I tossed these muffaletta panini into a grill pan for a couple of minutes. (A traditional muffaletta is served cold/room temperature.) Holy cow! That sandwich is what all other sandwiches want to be when they grow up!
If you ever make it to New Orleans, definitely stop by Central Grocery for a muffaletta. (You can spot Central Grocery by the line that goes out the door and down the street. It’s worth the wait.) Then walk over and eat that sammich on the banks of the Mississippi. But in the meantime? These muffaletta panini are a great way to celebrate Mardi Gras…even if you live 1,500 miles from The Big Easy.
Did you make these Muffaletta Panini? Leave a comment! Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). Cheers, friends!
Looking for other recipes for Mardi Gras? Check out some of these favorites:
For the Olive Spread
- 1 10-oz. jar pitted green olives drained
- 1 6-oz. can pitted black olives drained
- ½ cup giardiniera mix celery, carrots, cauliflower, peppers, etc., drained
- ½ cup sliced pepperoncini
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
For the Paninis
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 4 large ciabatta rolls halved
- 4 oz. soppresssata
- 4 oz. salami sliced
- 4 oz. mortadella sliced
- 4 oz. provolone cheese sliced
For the Olive Spread
- Finely chop green olives, black olives and giardiniera and pepperoncino; place mixture in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients (garlic, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil); stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the Paninis
- Brush a large frying or grill pan with olive oil; place the bottom half of each ciabatta roll in the pan. Place pan over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, spread 2-3 Tbsp (or more!) of olive spread mixture onto the other half of the ciabatta rolls; set aside.
- Divide meats (soppressata, salami and mortadella) and cheese evenly onto rolls in grill pan. Top with other half and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side, or until cheese is fully melted.