This is the hero to beat all heroes. Invented by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant, in the 1930s at the Central Grocery in New Orleans, the muffuletta once served—and still does—as a hearty lunch for local workers. The key ingredient is the sandwich's olive relish, which suffuses the bread with its herb-infused flavors. The relish may be prepared up to three days in advance and refrigerated.
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cauliflower florets
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1⁄2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 small carrot, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 small rib celery, thinly sliced crosswise
- 3⁄4 cup chopped pitted oil-cured green olives
- 1⁄4 cup chopped pitted oil-cured black olives
- 2 tbsp. chopped drained pimientos
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 (8") hearty round loaf Italian bread, preferably with sesame seeds, halved
- 6 oz. sliced mortadella
- 6 oz. sliced provolone
- 6 oz. sliced soppressata
Put the cauliflower, oil, oregano, thyme, carrots, celery, and 3 tbsp. water into a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until vegetables are just tender, 10-12 minutes. Transfer contents of pot to a small bowl, then stir in olives, pimientos, and salt and pepper. Let relish cool. Stir in parsley; set aside.
Using your hands, hollow out insides of each bread half. Brush inside of top half with some of the oil from the relish. Fill bottom half with relish; press down. Layer mortadella, provolone, and soppressata over relish, being careful not to let cheese or meat hang over the sides of the bread. Cover with top half of the bread and tightly wrap sandwich with plastic wrap. Place sandwich on a sheet pan; weight down with a couple of heavy objects, such as a cast-iron skillet topped with a small pot. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and cut sandwich into quarters.