Confession: I have never had an authentic muffuletta before, so you might give this vegetarian muffuletta recipe the side eye. But while I can’t attest to its closeness to the original, I can assure you that it’s a pretty darn good sandwich. It’s got the tangy, salty olive salad, the cheese, and instead of meat, we’re substituting a grilled portobello mushroom.
I was inspired to create this recipe because I used to always order the Vegetarian Muffuletta sandwich at Cosi. I loved that sandwich! I loved Cosi! But then they stopped selling the sandwich, which was a total bummer. Dangit, vegetarians want more options than tomatoes and mozzarella! (That goes for you too, Panera.)
So anyway, here we are. The classic muffuletta sold in New Orleans is on a big round loaf of bread; because this isn’t particularly easy to find, I use ciabatta. But the olive salad is what really sets the muffuletta apart from other sandwiches. In addition to the olives, you’ve got cauliflower, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, celery, pepperoncini and capers. It’s all tossed together and left to marinate in an herbed red wine vinaigrette.
Muffulettas are typically served cold, but since the mushrooms are grilled in this one, you can totally serve them warm too. They’ll keep in the fridge for a day, so they’re perfect for making in advance for a summer picnic.
For the olive salad:
- 1/2 cup sliced green olives + 1 tablespoon liquid from jar
- 1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup diced cauliflower florets
- 1/4 cup diced jarred artichoke hearts
- 1/4 cup diced roasted red peppers
- 2 tablespoons diced celery
- 5 pepperoncini thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground pepper
For the sandwiches:
- 4 large portobello mushrooms gills removed
- Olive oil for brushing
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large loaf ciabatta bread halved lengthwise
- Olive salad
- 4 slices provolone cheese
To make the olive salad:
- A day before making the sandwiches, combine all of the ingredients in a resealable bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
To make the sandwiches:
- Preheat grill to high.
- Brush the mushrooms with oil and place them on the grill. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes on each side, or until they've released their juices and are tender.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a plate to cool if you're making cold sandwiches or assemble the sandwiches right away if you're eating them warm.
- To assemble the sandwiches, spread the olive salad onto the bottom half of the bread. Top the salad with the mushrooms and cheese. Press the remaining half of the loaf onto the top and use a sharp knife to cut the loaf into 4 equal segments.
- Serve immediately or wrap and refrigerate upside down for up to a day. (Refrigerating upside down keeps the bottom of the muffuletta from getting soggy!)
Photos by Lindsey Johnson