These sandwiches are especially great for a game day or Mardi Gras muffaletta. They’re so yummy, you’ll make them for all of your parties. They’re also perfect individual sandwiches for picnics! So easy to make, you only need 35 minutes to assemble them. You will need 3 hours to let the flavors blend in the refrigerator, though, so plan accordingly! The sandwich preparation is about 35 minutes because the red bell pepper roasts in the oven for 25 minutes. You do some of the prep while the bell peppers are roasting in the oven, though, using your time the most efficiently. You can also buy roasted bell peppers in olive oil at the grocery store to save even more time.
The recipe uses my own Two Olive Tapenade recipe, and it’s delicious! I first made the tapenade when I was trying to veganize a Schlotsky’s original sandwich. I gave up on that sandwich, but Mr. Key Lime and I love the tapenade. We use it as a chip or veggie dip and as a spread on crusty bread. It is *perfect* for this muffaletta.
This recipe is adapted from the cookbook Veganomicon by Issa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. I’m a huge fan of both and I love Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook Viva Vegan!.
The original recipe has eggplant slices, but we found at my house that the eggplant was just too chewy. Hubs and I have decided we only like eggplant in eggplant parmigiana. When making Vegan Cubanos, I had success with a vegan sandwich meat and vegan sliced cheeze, so I replaced the eggplant with those, which is closer to a classic muffaletta anyway.
I also added some sliced pickled banana peppers, because I love a little mild spice on a sandwich. If you or your guests want a little more heat, pickled jalapeños are a nice addition. You can also just sprinkle a little juice from the jalapeño jar onto the sandwich for a more subtle heat.
When buying bread for this sandwich, get a rustic crusty bread which is round or oval (the word “muffaletta” actually refers to a round bread), and I would say at least 6 to 8 inches wide. To cut the bread, you slice the whole loaf down the center lengthwise, then slice the two sides into 4 individual smaller sandwiches, making 8 small sandwiches total. Mine end up being about 4 inches square (using a long loaf), but each should be at least about 4 inches by 2 inches.
Before slicing the finished loaf into individual sandwiches, I place a toothpick (or two) into the near center of what will be each sandwich. This prevents sliding of the top crust. The sliding isn’t a big problem – the sandwiches stay together very well. But the toothpick keeps you from having to worry about slippage, especially while cutting the original sandwich loaf. If you use toothpicks, BE SURE to tell your guests that the toothpicks are in the sandwich, or use those fancy toothpicks called “frill picks” with the frilly colored decoration on top.
Here’s a short history of the muffaletta sandwich.
Mardi Gras Muffaletta
A perfect party sandwich for game days, picnics, or your Mardi Gras celebration!
3 hours for refrigerating
For the roasted red bell pepper:
To roast the bell pepper:
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly oil it with olive oil.
Halve and de-seed the bell pepper. Rinse the pepper and pat dry. Cut each bell pepper half into 3 to 4 sections.
Place the bell pepper segments onto the baking sheet, cut side down. Bake about 25 minutes, or until the pepper skins look wilted and slightly charred.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Using your hands, peel the skin from the roasted pepper sections.
Once cooled, cut the sections into 1/4 inch wide slices. In a small bowl, toss the slices in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, salt and black pepper. Set aside until the sandwich is assembled.
To make the tapenade:
While the bell pepper is roasting, chop the black olives, green olives and garlic cloves by hand or with a food processor. Be sure not to chop them too small, you don't want to make a paste.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the mustard, thyme and basil.
Add the mustard mixture to the olives and garlic, blending well. Set aside.
To assemble the sandwiches:
While the bell pepper is still roasting, place the spinach leaves in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the spinach leaves with the 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and toss to coat. Set aside.
Slice your bread loaf in half lengthwise, making a top and bottom. Remove some bread from the middle of the top and bottom slices, hollowing it out, but leaving about 1 inch of bread all around the edges. The bottom of the hollow parts can be about 1/2 inch thick.
Finish prepping the roasted bell pepper according to the directions above.
Line both of the hollowed out top and bottom slices of bread with a thick layer of the olive tapenade (I use it all, but it will depend on the size of your loaf).
On the bottom slice of bread, over the layer of tapenade, layer 4 slices of vegan sandwich meat, 1 slice of vegan cheese (optional) split into two halves, 1/2 of the spinach, the roasted red bell pepper, sliced banana peppers, finely chopped onion, another layer of 4 slices of vegan sandwich meat, and the rest of the spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the top slice of bread and tapenade onto the bottom of the sandwich. Press down on the sandwich with your body weight for a minute or two, flattening the sandwich. Don't be afraid to push too hard.
Wrap the flattened sandwich tightly in aluminum foil, then wrap it again tightly in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator with something heavy on top, like cans, pans, or cartons of plantbased milk (I use three unopened almond milk cartons).
Leave the sandwich with the weight on top in the fridge for at least 3 hours. It can also stay in the fridge overnight or all day.
To serve the sandwiches:
Remove the sandwich from the refrigerator and carefully unwrap it completely.
Optional: place a toothpick in the center of what will be each small sandwich before slicing.
Holding the bread down, using a bread knife or other knife with a serrated edge, slice the loaf down the center lengthwise, making two long sandwich halves.
Slice each sandwich half into 4 smaller sandwiches, cutting every 2 to 4 inches. If your loaf is longer, or if you slice more narrow (2 inch) sandwiches, you might get more than 8 total sandwiches.
Serve immediately, or wrap each small sandwich tightly and place back in the refrigerator until ready to serve. For a picnic, if using the vegan meat and cheese, keep the sandwiches cool until serving.