Serves a Crowd

Waiting for Napoleon Bonaparte Muffaletta Sandwich (The Remix Edition)

June  1, 2010
7 Ratings
Photo by Alpha Smoot
  • Serves an army
Author Notes

One of the greatest traditional food items to come out of New Orleans is the muffaletta sandwich. Central Grocery is renowned for theirs, but you can also taste a fine one on the café menu at Napoleon House on Chartres in the French Quarter. Napoleon House gets its name from the fact that in 1821 it was offered as a residence to Bonaparte during his exile. Being an unapologetic Bonapartist myself, my recipe title is a tribute to Boney. Now let’s see if he shows up for lunch. The primary components of the sandwich are ham, salami, provolone cheese, and topping of olive salad, all packed onto a crusty round loaf. The olive salad should be generous but it should not overwhelm your pork product.
Because it’s difficult to find the proper Italian-style round bread loaf outside of New Orleans, you might want to think about doing as I prefer and make your own. But what you really want is a good-sized round and crusty Italian loaf. The ingredients indicated here for the olive salad will produce enough for two sandwiches this size. To serve, you can/should halve or quarter the assembled muffaletta. —pierino

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Pierino is a trusted source on general cooking and tough love.
WHAT: If Napoleon had eaten muffaletta sandwiches, this would have been his recipe of choice.
HOW: Make a chunky olive salad in the food processor and let it rest in the refrigerator. Cut a large Italian-style roll “hamburger-style” and smear it with mustard. Top with ham, capicola, provolone, and a generous amount of the olive mixture. Gather a crowd and some napkins.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Can’t get to New Orleans for an authentic muffaletta when the craving strikes? Don’t worry -- pierino’s recipe brings the classic sandwich straight from the streets of the French Quarter into your own kitchen. Make extra olive salad to eat as a snack the next day. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the olive salad:
  • 1/2 cup Spanish pimento olives
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives (Kalamatas work fine)
  • 4 to 6 cornichons
  • 2 cloves garlic (see note below)
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian oregano
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • For the sandwich components:
  • one 6-ounce crusty Italian roll
  • A little creole mustard
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced premium cooked or cured ham (even prosciutto or jamon Serrano)
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola (as the name suggests, this is most often made from pig neck)
  • 1/4 pound sliced provolone cheese
  1. It’s easy to make the olive salad in the bowl of a food processor using the olives, cornichons, garlic, oregano, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper. Give everything a few quick pulses. It should remain a bit chunky -- somewhat more coarse than a tapenade.
  2. Spoon the olive salad into a non-reactive bowl and cover it with cling wrap. It should then go into the refrigerator to rest for at least 5 to 8 hours, and it will keep overnight.
  3. To assemble, use a sharp bread knife to divide the loaf into two halves horizontally like a giant hamburger bun. Smear some mustard on the bottom half and top with ham, capicola, provolone, and a generous amount of olive salad. Cover with the top portion of the roll and divide into halves or quarters. Bring napkins.
  4. Notes to the cook: For the garlic, I use a “garlic confit” that I learned from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. What that consists of is about 40 peeled cloves of garlic covered in canola oil and poached for about forty minutes -- a flame tamer is advised. Store the garlic and oil in a sealed container in the refrigerator. After a few days the oil will be highly perfumed. I think the little Corsican would like that touch. It’s handy to have on hand and you can add a little of the oil to the salad. Otherwise, use fresh garlic cloves.
  5. The cornichon included in the olive salad is untraditional but one of my New Orleans friends really liked it, so I think it really works. Don't be stingy with the olive salad.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emilie Roper Smart
    Emilie Roper Smart
  • zoemetro uk
    zoemetro uk
  • frog
  • fiveandspice
  • ChefJune
Standup commis flâneur, and food historian. Pierino's background is in Italian and Spanish cooking but of late he's focused on frozen desserts. He is now finishing his cookbook, MALAVIDA! Can it get worse? Yes, it can. Visit the Malavida Brass Knuckle cooking page at Facebook and your posts are welcome there.

12 Reviews

Emilie R. February 1, 2022
Props to you for baking your own muffuletta bread! Next time, add sesame seeds to the top for a more authentic loaf. Also - you really need a layer of mortadella.

Another great use for olive salad is to add it to a roast beef poboy. Slice your poboy bread length-wise, smear an even layer of mayo on the cut sides and stick them under the broiler until the mayo melts into the bread. layer the insides: first the sliced roast beef (o debris or gravy - just sliced beef), put olive mix on the roast beef and a layer of mozzarella or provolone. Stick that under the broiler to melt the cheese. Slap on the top and enjoy! Note: this also works with the muffuletta loaf if you're feeling generous.
zoemetro U. October 19, 2014
Congrats M. Pierino. I loved the idea of taming the garlic. I doubled the olive salad and used it last night with a lovely Sicilian red wine and a big hunk of parmigiano.
Sena October 12, 2014
Great timing! My hubby and I just got back from a vacation in New Orleans yesterday. For our last meal in NOLA, he had a Central Grocery muffaletta and I had a veg poboy from Killer Poboys. Yum! We brought back a 2lb jar of Central Grocery's olive salad, but now we can make our own. I'm vegan (hubby's an omnivore), so my muffalettas are made with eggplant or portobello mushrooms with the olive salad. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
frog October 9, 2014
There a couple of things wrong with this "muffaletta". The olive salad lacks gardineria, capers, chickpeas, and artichoke hearts, and there should be 2 cheeses on the sandwiches. Also, Central Grocery doesn't heat it, but the Napoleon House heats theirs--an improvement to my mind.
fiveandspice October 7, 2014
Very nice!
ChefJune October 6, 2014
Congrats on the WC win! Muffuletta is a natural born winner, imho, and this is a great rendition.
When I make Muffuletta, I always use a large round loaf halved horizontally. I pull aobut half the insides out of the bread to make room for the filling, then I start with the juice from the olive salad, brushing the bread with that, and a layer of olive salad. I use several types of Italian cold cuts, each in its own layer, then cheese, then lettuce and tomatoes, then revers the layers going up into the lid. it's a great dish to take on a tailgate picnic! Now I want one!
AntoniaJames June 10, 2010
How large an army does the olive salad serve? I.e., how many sandwiches can you make with the recipe for olive salad that you've provided? Thanks!! ;o)
pierino June 10, 2010
There should be enough olive salad here for two large muffalettas. And usually one half sandwich will satisfy one hungry person. So this realistically will serve four. But the recipe for salad portion can be doubled. And thank you!
Kayb June 2, 2010
I love a good muffaletta, and this olive salad sounds very, very good....will be trying it!
AntoniaJames June 1, 2010
Really nice, Pierino. I can still remember, vividly, the taste of a muffalatta had the last time I was in New Orleans. I like the addition of cornichons. The round Italian bread is key because (a) all the pockets of air in the dough catch and hold the olive salad so well, and (ii) the round edges do a nice job of preventing too much of the olive salad from getting away. When I make muffaletta, I always put the olive salad on the bottom half, for that reason. I also add a big handful of Italian parsley, because it makes the salad and the meat taste better, in my opinion. ;o) P.S. Had never considered literally "capocolla." Nice bit of knowledge there.
pierino June 1, 2010
This is a makeover of a muffaletta that I submitted previously. Tweaked a few things, but it really is a pork sandwich. Not so long ago, a local place here why live was serving muffalettas on baguttes; which wasn't so bad at first. But then the meat portions began to shrink and the olive salad turned into this tiny smear. I called 'em out on it. This is a BIG sandwich, we should halve or quarter and the olive salad should come sliding out the sides.
drbabs June 1, 2010