Muffuletta Pasta Salad

Muffuletta Pasta Salad
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Okay, so I know a few of you aren’t going to be on board with today’s Muffuletta Pasta Salad. I get it because the muffuletta is a perfect sandwich. It cannot be improved upon but it can be played with. And since American Italians created this sandwich, serving the iconic sandwich’s toppings over pasta seemed fitting. It is peak pasta salad season after all. And this salad is summer potluck ready. So with all the respect in my heart for the original, I invite you to join me as I have some fun with a sandwich icon. I promise it will be delicious.

Provolone, mortadella, capicola, salami, and fresh parsley on a plate.

Before we get into this Muffuletta Pasta Salad, let’s talk about the muffuletta itself. The muffuletta gets its name from the round Sicilian sesame bread it is served on. The name comes from the word “muffe”, which means mold or mushroom. This is likely a reference to the rounded mushroom-cap-like shape of the bread. 

Olives on a cutting board.

The first muffuletta sandwich is believed to have been created in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo. Lupo was a Sicilian immigrant who owned Central Grocery Co. on Decatur Street in New Orleans. The sandwich was served at the American-Italian grocery store’s legendary deli counter. As with most food history, the precise origin of the muffuletta is hotly contested. But Lupo is most often credited with its invention. The muffuletta also bears a passing resemblance to the Pan Bagnat from Nice, though that is likely incidental.

Ingredients for the olive salad in a food processor.

A traditional muffuletta sandwich features the all-important bread split horizontally and covered with a marinated olive salad that is unique to the sandwich. The sandwich boasts layers of salami, mortadella, ham, and provolone. The sandwich improves the longer it sits. So it travels well and is ideal for eating al fresco. You can get muffulettas in quarters, halves, and of course, a full round.

The finished olive salad in a bowl.

Using the proper bread to make a muffuletta is essential. And apparently, it can be difficult to track down outside of Louisiana. Although you can purchase it via Amazon. But if you’re not keen on making a special order and you don’t want anything less than the real deal, this Muffuletta Pasta Salad offers a tasty workaround. Is it as good as the sandwich? No. But that’s not the point. Who needs another straightforward muffuletta recipe? While it may not rival the legend, this is still a drool-worthy salad that is worth your attention. So let’s make it. 

Chopped provolone cheese on a cutting board.

As we would with the sandwich, we’re going to start by making the olive salad. The olive salad essentially works as the pasta salad’s dressing, so we must get it right. I went fairly traditional with my olive salad, using the recipe from Serious Eats as a guide. The first thing you have to do is drain some giardiniera and pop it into a food processor. Giardiniera is an Italian medley of pickled vegetables swimming in vinegar or oil. It typically features cauliflower, carrot, celery, bell peppers, and sweet and hot peppers. To the giardiniera add a mixture of pitted olives, some capers, minced garlic, and coarsely chopped parsley. Pulse the ingredients together until the mixture resembles mulch. We don’t want the mixture to be too fine, we want some chunks. 

The ingredients for the Muffuletta Pasta Salad piled into a large bowl.

Leave the olive salad to sit for at least an hour. Overnight is better. And because the olive salad is the hardest part of this recipe, this dish is a great make-ahead candidate. Think about it. All you have to do is whip up the olive salad the day before and then the day just cook some pasta and rip up some cheese and deli meats. Let’s talk about those deli meats. 

Muffuletta Pasta Salad on a large platter.

This salad features mortadella, capicola, salami, and provolone. Feel free to add your favorites but I must say this trio worked very well. Cut your provolone and salami into pieces and tear the mortadella and capicola into bite-sized bits. In addition to the olive salad, I also added halved green olives for some added texture and brininess. But if the olive salad is enough for you, feel free to omit them. 

Place your favorite cooked short pasta in a large bowl. I used Mafalda corta but I think just about any short pasta will work here. Remember to undercook the pasta slightly. A little bite is so important in a pasta salad. Cold pasta is prone to sogginess. To the pasta add your meats and cheese. Next, add your halved olives if you’re using them, and the olive salad. Finally, pour in some olive oil and red wine vinegar and toss everything together. Pile the salad onto a platter and top with mixed greens. I used a mixture of baby lettuce, mizuna, and pea shoots. Greens are not a traditional muffuletta topping. They are more of an olive, meat, and cheese fest. But I quite like the contrast. The greens help cut through the richness of the salad. 

And that’s everything you need to know about this Muffuletta Pasta Salad. Hearty, meaty, and fully loaded, this pasta salad tastes like a sandwich and eats like a meal. Pair with good friends, summer-friendly drinks, and grill-side hangs.


Muffuletta Pasta Salad

Muffuletta Pasta Salad

This Muffuletta Pasta Salad features all the flavors of the classic New Orleans sandwich in a salad format. Complete with mortadella, provolone, capicola, salami, and of course, the iconic olive salad, this BBQ side is meaty, tangy, and brilliantly briny.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Resting Time 1 hour
Course Salad
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 6


  • 1 Food Processor


Olive Salad

  • 1 cup mixed olives pitted
  • ½ cup giardiniera drained
  • ½ cup fresh parsley coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers drained
  • 2 cloves garlic minced

Muffeletta Pasta Salad

  • 250g (9oz) uncooked short pasta I used mafalda corta
  • 145g (5 oz) provolone cheese cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 75g (2.5oz) pepper-coated salami cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 75g (2.5oz) mortadella torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 55g (2oz) capicola torn into bite-sized pieces
  • ¾ cup green olives pitted, halved
  • 1 batch Olive Salad see above
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup mixed greens **
  • crushed red pepper flakes for sprinkling


For the Olive Salad

  • Place olives, giardiniera, parsley, capers, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles mulch. ***
    1 cup mixed olives, ½ cup giardiniera, ½ cup fresh parsley, 1 tbsp capers, 2 cloves garlic
  • Transfer the olive salad to a bowl and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Overnight in the fridge is better. This will give the flavors a chance to meld.

For the Pasta Salad

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and liberally salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.**** Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water.
    250g (9oz) uncooked short pasta
  • Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and add the provolone, mortadella, capicola, salami, olives, and the olive salad. Add the olive oil and the red wine vinegar and toss to coat.
    145g (5 oz) provolone cheese, 75g (2.5oz) pepper-coated salami, 75g (2.5oz) mortadella, 55g (2oz) capicola, ¾ cup green olives, 3 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 batch Olive Salad
  • Pile the pasta salad onto a platter and top with the greens or serve them as a side. Sprinkle the salad with crushed red pepper flakes and serve immediately.
    1 cup mixed greens **, crushed red pepper flakes


** I used a medley of baby lettuce, mizuna, and pea shoots. Feel free to use whatever assortment of leafy greens you prefer. 
*** Don’t over-process the olive salad. We don’t want it to be perfectly smooth. We’re looking for small chunks. 
**** When making pasta salad its a good idea to slightly undercooked the pasta. The longer the pasta sits in dressing, the mushier its liable to get. 
Keyword capicola, mortadella, olives, Pasta, salami

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