Pretty much everything that you find on a well garnished antipasti plate was stuffed into that muffuletta. I like to think of it as Antipasti in a bread.
I’m the kind of people who just can’t stand silence; I need to always have some sort of activity and noise around me, especially during the day when I’m alone at home sitting at my desk, working on my computer.
In those times, I like to have the television playing in the background, to sort of keep me company. My favorite channel to “watch” of course would be The Food Network. From morning to night, I listen to shows like Chopped Canada, Guy’s Grocery Game, Cutthroat Kitchen, You Gotta Eat Here and Mystery Diners. While I don’t actually sit down and watch those shows, I trust that my subconscious is picking up all sorts of tips and inspiration!
And while I don’t really pay attention to what’s actually being said, I will, from time to time, catch random comments and remarks.
Now today, as I sat myself down to start working on this very post, John Catucci was on and exclaimed:
This is the most amazing sandwich that ever existed in the history of the world!
And I thought to myself “Why, thank you! I couldn’t agree more, John, I couldn’t agree more…”
Of course, I was thinking of my own Muffuletta (or as I like to call it, Antipasti Sandwich). I have no idea what his sandwich looked like. Oh, I bet it was good, but it couldn’t possibly have been better than this guy right here.
For this sandwich, it means serious business! Muffuletta is a great classic in itself, but I decided to kick it up a notch and kind of take it to the next level. Pretty much everything that you find on a well garnished antipasti plate, I stuffed into that bread. There is so much flavor going on with all the different components alone that I felt no exterior help from additional condiments would be necessary. No mustard, no garlic, no herbs, not even olive oil…
I just kept things to their sheer simplicity.
The resulting sandwich was an experience that I won’t soon forget; a memorable feast that you definitely want to be adding to your own library of fond food memories.
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS & PICTURES
Start with a large round loaf of bread, preferably one that has a nice, dense and crispy crust.
With a sharp utility knife, cut out a very large hole from the top of that loaf and then, using your fingers, remove as much bread as possible from the inside, while being careful not to damage the crust. Don’t forget to also “clean” the top!
We won’t be using that bread you just removed, so you can discard it or save it for another usage. Personally, I like to let it air dry and then grind it to make bread crumbs.
Now that we made some room, we’re gonna start layering our yummy ingredients inside the loaf.
A few notes before you start: first, make sure that you pat or squeeze all the “wet” ingredients really dry to remove as much moisture from them as you possibly can. If you don’t do that, excess moisture will end up in the bread, which will make for a wet and soggy crust. This is NOT exactly what we’re after.
Also, try and compress everything as you go and arrange your ingredients in such a way that they occupy every inch of available space (think Tetris, here…) You may feel as though you have way too much ingredients, but you should be able to fit them all in.
Alright, so start layering the ingredients in the order in which they are listed in the recipe section, starting with the sliced mozzarella…
Next in line is the Genoa salami.
And now the artichoke hearts. These guys carry A LOT of water, so you really want to squeeze them as dry as you possibly can.
What I like to do is, after I opened the can, I leave the lid in, hold it in place and then tilt the can to drain the brine. Then, I push the lid way down and press it real hard so the artichoke hearts get squeezed super tightly at the bottom of the can, letting go of all the liquid that’s still hiding between their delicate leaves.
Trust me, there’s a lot!
After the artichoke have been added, time for the roasted sweet peppers to go in. These guys you want to wipe dry with paper towels, and really, don’t skimp on the paper towels.
Oh, and don’t forget the inside!! They too, hide a lot of liquid in their hearts! So wipe the peppers inside and out.
When they’re all good and dry, place them right on top of the artichokes.
Next in line if the Feta cheese.
Again, you want to pat it really dry: this highly pungent cheese is heavily gorged with the salty brine in which it is kept. Speaking of which… you might want to give it a quick rinse first, to rid it of some of its saltiness, although that much is entirely up to you. I tend to rinse my feta cheese all the time, so if you’re the same, go ahead and give it a quick trip under cold running water and then, pat it real dry. If you like it “full salt”, then don’t bother rinsing it.
Do, however, pat it dry. That much, I can’t stress enough.
Ah, now for my favorite part: the prosciutto.
Because of its dry, somewhat chewy consistency, it’s best that you don’t lay the prosciutto flat, else it may render your sandwich kind of hard to slice. Instead, clump it up in little bundles and lay them side by side.
Plus, it looks so much prettier that way, and it will create all kinds of little nooks and crannies that will help hold the olives in place.
‘Cuz chances are by now, you’ve started to mound your ingredients kind of outside the confinement of the bread… but don’t worry about it. You cap is hollow and will engulf and hold everything in place when we put it back on in a few minutes.
Alright, so now arrange your cracked green olives on top of the prosciutto (ahem… you did pat them dry, did you? Good! I thought so!)
And finally, pack the (I have to say it just because, you know… patted dry) mini bocconcini in with the olives.
Replace the “top” over the stuffed bread and press it down firmly.
At this point, it’s okay to have a slight gap between the bottom and top parts of the bread. This gap should disappear after the bread has been weighed down, which is exactly what we’re about to do.
But first, wrap your stuffed bread as tightly as you can in several layers of plastic film.
Then, place your bread in the refrigerator with a fairly heavy weight sitting on top of it. I placed mine between 2 small cutting boards and placed a 4 pound bag of rice on top.
This will finish compacting all the ingredients, which will require at least 4 hours, but if you can afford to leave it overnight, that would be even better.
When you are ready to eat, preheat your oven to 450°F.
Remove the muffuletta from the plastic film and place it in the oven directly on the grill for about 15 minutes. Then, lower the heat to 375°F and continue cooking the bread for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is nice and crispy and the cheese is all ooey and gooey.
Slice your Antipasti Sandwich into 4 to 6 wedges and serve immediately.
- 1 large round loaf of bread
- 175g (4.4oz) mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 175g (4.4oz) genoa salami (about 35 slices)
- 1 can (398ml | 14oz) artichoke hearts, drained, squeezed really dry and rouglhy chopped
- 3 roasted sweet peppers, patted really dry
- 200g (7oz) feta cheese, sliced and patted dry
- 250g (8.8oz) prosciutto (about 15 slices)
- 1 cup (150g | 5.2oz) cracked green olives, pitted and cut in half
- 1 cup (175g | 4.4oz) mini bocconcini, cut in half
- With a sharp utility knife, cut out a large hole from the top of the loaf and then, using your fingers, remove as much bread as possible from the inside, while being careful not to damage the crust. Discard or save that bread for another usage (I like to let it air dry and then grind it into bread crumbs)
- Layer the ingredients in the order in which they are listed, i.e. sliced mozzarella, Genoa salami, artichoke hearts, roasted sweet peppers, feta cheese, prosciutto, cracked green olives and finally, mini bocconcini.
- Make sure that you pat or squeeze all the "wet" ingredients really dry to remove as much moisture from them as you possibly can. If you don't do that, excess moisture will end up in the bread, which will make for a wet and soggy crust. Not exactly what we're after.
- Also, try and compress everything as you go and arrange your ingredients in such a way that they occupy every inch of available space (think Tetris, here...) You may feel as though you have way too much ingredients, but you should be able to fit it all in (a slight gap between the bottom and top part of the bread is okay, it should disappear after the bread has been weighed down)
- Replace the "top" over the stuffed bread, wrap it as tightly as you can in several layers of plastic film and then place it in the refrigerator with a fairly heavy weight sitting on top to finish compacting all the ingredients; refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
- When you are ready to eat, preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Remove the muffuletta from the plastic film and place it in the oven directly on the grill for about 15 minutes then lower the heat to 375°F and continue cooking the bread for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is nice and crispy and the cheese is all ooey and gooey.
- Slice into 4 to 6 wedges and serve immediately.