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:
Cajun Fried Shrimp
Muffaletta Pasta Salad
Cajun Dirty Rice
Cajun Grilled Shrimp w/ Spicy Dipping Sauce
Mardi Gras Donut Holes
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.
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New Orléans is on my bucket list, both for the culture but also the Muffaletta! Fun fact, the original Cajuns were all from Atlantic Canada. Anyway, when I saw this sandwich come up in my feed, I just had to click and read more. A muffaletta and a panini, great combo and I think I need to make one ASAP!
Yes! Put New Orleans on the list for sure, Matt. In fact, I just posted another fun Creole recipe today. I had the opportunity to get back to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, and it was absolutely awesome! The muffaletta is a must when you get there…along with beignets, coffee with chicory, crawfish, red beans and rice, etouffee. Man, I could keep this list going for a while! Make sure to be hungry when you go! 🙂
David, this muffaletta looks incredible! And the olive spread is amazing. I would never eat an olive by itself – like you, I’m trying to like them – but I love them on a sandwich. Sounds like a lovely afternoon, having a muffaletta on the banks of the Mississippi. I think I’ll put that on my bucket list!
We’re in the same boat, Kelly! I started with olives on sandwiches, and I gradually moved to olives by themselves. A muffaletta is only as good as the olive tapanade on top (and the bread…and the meat…haha)! Definitely put eating a muffaletta in New Orleans on your foodie bucket list. It’s just a requirement. 🙂 Hope you had a great weekend, my friend!
My first muffuletta came from Central Grocery; but then I discovered the warm, toasty sandwich from Napoleon House. It was the beginning of a muffuletta love affair! OMG! The toasted bread, the melting cheese. It was just too much! And my daughter and I were lucky enough to watch them make it through a little side window that peers into their kitchen. I will go to Central but only to buy their olive spread, which you can buy online. If you ever return to NOLA, try the sandwich from Napoleon House.
Hey Terri! Like you, my first ever taste of a muffaletta was from Central Grocery. I liked it, but then the flavors grew on me, and now I love a good muffaletta! I’m not familiar with the one from Napoleon House, although I did just find a cookbook from there. (It was buried on my cookbook shelf…) I was just in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for a convention, but I didn’t make it over to Napoleon House. Guess I just need to plan a return trip! 🙂 Thanks so much for the comment and recommendation!
David, I had the muffuletta in New Orleans and I am still dreaming about it. It was out of this world. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I will definitely try it.
I hear ya, Gerlinde! A good muffaletta is definitely dream-worthy. Since I’m about 1,000 miles away from New Orleans, it’s kinda hard to just run by and get a muffaletta. But I’ve gotta say that making a homemade version isn’t too hard, and it’s totally delicious! Give these panini a shot sometime! 🙂
Ha ha. Lynne came into the office just as I was reading this recipe post David and she took one look at your photographs and said “I want that, I want you to make me that”. So I guess I’m going to be trying out a Muffaletta Panini soon! I don’t have a problem with that. They look absolutely delicious! Thanks mate!
Haha! Well that timing worked out well, huh? It’s Mardi Gras season, so why not celebrate with some classic New Orleans food! Definitely put these sandwiches on the menu soon. The key is making sure you find a good French bread that’s crusty on the outside and nice and soft on the inside. Cheers, my friend, and Happy Mardi Gras! 🙂
Hi David! I love olives and olive salad so I think your idea for eating it with pita chips is great!! And these sandwiches are to die for! Ciabatta rolls are on my favorites to make sandwiches (sourdough bread is another). Making me hungry…again 🙂
Olive salad with pita chips is a new obsession, Dorothy! I think next time I make muffalettas, I’ll have to make a double batch of the olive salad. 🙂 Definitely put these panini on the list, my friend…they’re amazing! Thank you!
I’ve never heard of this classic and it will definitely be on my mind until I eat it. Must make this! Between the olives, salami and cheese I’d be in heaven.
Muffalettas are totally something that need to be on your radar, Valentina! They’re a classic New Orleans sandwich, and they’re amazing. I adapted the classic version slightly by heating ’em up on ciabatta bread. Either way, they’re one of my favorites! Not what you might think of when you think New Orleans Cajun/Creole food, but they’re so good! 🙂
David, you brought back some solid memories with this post. I also lived in NOLA a long time ago and have been to Central Grocery for a muffuletta many times And, yes I’ve also sat down at the Riverfront Park and watched the barges go by with Algiers Point in the background. I’ve never been able to duplicate Central’s bread, I think it makes that sandwich. But, I’ve never had a Muffaletta Panini, so that I’m looking forward to. Did you ever try Central’s marinated mushrooms? We used to buy jars of them. They’re also great battered and deep-fried.
Goodness, Ron! You’ve lived all over the place. I had no idea that you lived in NOLA, too. I had the chance to return to New Orleans a couple of weeks back, and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t want to leave! I totally understand what you mean about Central’s bread. It’s unique. I’ve heard that Greek bakeries sell something similar, but we don’t have any Greek bakeries in our area. (At least not that I’m aware of…) The panini version kinda fixes that problem, and I’ve gotta say these are quite tasty!
Also, I haven’t tried Central’s marinated mushrooms. I clearly need to put an order in online. Thanks for the tip, my friend!
Good grief – 3 hours of polka music? Who in the world can listen to more than 30 minutes of it?!!! This sandwich is lovely. I love the muffaleta part, the charcuterie, and the fact the cheese is warm. Lovely.
Hahaha! I totally agree, Mimi! I can handle about 15 minutes of it while I drive to the grocery store for our weekly trip…and by the time I get there, I’m ready to go nuts. 🙂 I say we turn on some Zydeco instead and make a batch of these muffaletta panini instead. Deal?
We have to bring an appetizer to a Mardi Gras party next month and I think your idea of the olive spread as a dip would be perfect. It will be a big group and I know they will enjoy it. A big thank you! BTW, I’m going to pretend I didn’t see those delicious looking sticky buns you created. 😀
Do it! This olive spread recipe for this sandwich is absolutely delicious, Karen. I would absolutely start with this one…just make sure to double (or quadruple) it because it’ll go fast! Oh, and make it the day before as the flavors will meld overnight. Enjoy!
And we’ll keep the sticky buns as our little secret, ok? Haha.
I’ve never tried a muffaletta sandwich…but I’m willing to try. I’d really love to know where the name came from. For some reason it reminds me of The Princess Bride. Did they eat muffaletta sandwiches in that movie? Hmmmmm…
Hah…muffaletta totally sounds like a Princess Bride term! (Great movie, by the way.) I got curious and googled it. Looks like it’s an Americanized version of a Sicilian word. No matter the origin, muffalettas are delicious! Put these on the menu soon…they’re a fun way to celebrate Mardi Gras season! 🙂
I’ve never been to New Orleans but it’s definitely on my to-do list. (Way more than listening to three hours of polka is on my to-do list. That’s just weird.) And I love olives, so you’d better believe I’ll make that olive spread soon–it sounds like an excellent March Madness snack 🙂
Hey, listening to hours upon hours of polka music is indeed weird. I can’t handle more about 15 minutes of it while Robbie and I drive to the grocery store on our weekly trip. Also, I think you’re onto something for the March Madness snack and olive spread. DONE! 🙂
I’ve never been to New Orleans, but would sure love to! Huge olive (and sandwich) fan over here so this muffaletta sandwich is totally calling my name. All I’d need with this beauty is some coffee and maybe some potato chips. Happy Monday, David!
Oh, you have to put New Orleans on your travel bucket list, Dawn. I just got back a couple of weeks ago (had a conference down there), and I absolutely didn’t want to leave! But in the meantime, put a batch of these muffaletta panini on the menu. They’re a delicious and fun way to celebrate Mardi Gras season! 🙂
Hola David; para mí no es extraño poner aceitunas en un sándwich ó bocadillo como decimos en España; de hecho las olivas son parte de nuestra cultura y las verduras encurtidas,no lo son, pero estoy casada con un saudí y allí se utilizan mucho, por lo tanto, me parece un sándwich de 10+ . Gracias por tu generosidad. Saludos desde Guadalajara, España
Greetings, Wendy! I absolutely love Spanish olives, so it’s no surprise to hear that olives are a common sandwich topping in Spain. My wife and I haven’t visited Spain yet, but it’s on our list of places we’d love to see! You should totally make this sandwich, though. It’s a tribute to New Orleans, and it’s really (!!) good. Thank you so much for stopping by to say hello, my friend. (P.S. My apologies for the response in English instead of Spanish!) Cheers!