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Muffulettu, the Meatless Version of a Muffuletta

A co-owner of Porgy's Seafood Market in New Orleans explains the origins of a Muffulettu sandwich and provides a recipe.

By Dana Honn

9:00 AM EST on February 13, 2024

The Muffulettu sandwich at Porgy Seafood Market in New Orleans.

The Muffulettu sandwich at Porgy’s Seafood Market in New Orleans.

There are regional variations of the muffulettu throughout Sicily, but Licata, a city located on Sicily's south coast, holds an especially strong cultural connection to the bread and its fillings. This suggests that it could have its origins there. The ancient story of the muffulettu in Licata traces its origins from being stuffed with tuna to sustain the faithful after Good Friday processions and with sausage during Easter celebrations. Over time, the muffulettu became a Thursday tradition in Licata, a city which, even today, has no shortage of ovens preparing the flavorful bread. The muffulettu with tuna remains a significant part of the Good Friday tradition, maintaining its historical and gastronomic importance.

Otherwise, the -tu ending does connote tuna, but that's not wordplay or a pun; it's actually a historically accurate name for the sandwich hailing from Licata, which (I believe) eventually transformed into the meat and cheese-stuffed muffuletta that Sicilian immigrants popularized in New Orleans.

This recipe is intended for home cooks. It is a relatively quick preparation that utilizes some prepared ingredients as shortcuts. If you do make the tuna conserva, you can omit the 3 tablespoons olive oil called for in the recipe.

Editor's note: Dana Honn is co-owner of the recently opened Porgy's Seafood Market in New Orleans, a retail space and restaurant with an emphasis on sustainable, wild-caught Gulf seafood, particularly bycatch. The market's signature sandwich, the muffulettu, pays tribute to the long legacy of Sicilian immigrants that have shaped New Orleans' food scene by swapping Italian cold cuts for Gulf tuna conserva.

How to Make a Muffulettu Sandwich

How to Make a Muffulettu Sandwich

Recipe by Porgy's Seafood Market
5.0 from 1 vote
Servings

1-2

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 9-inch 1 muffuletta bun or other Italian sesame roll

  • 6 ounces 6 high-quality, line-caught albacore or yellowfin tuna (or tuna conserva; see Note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon 1/2 anise seed

  • 3 tablespoons 3 olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons 3 mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon 1 anchovy paste

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 olive salad

  • 2 ounces 2 Pecorino cheese, thinly shaved

  • 2 tablespoons 2 fresh basil, chiffonade

Directions

  • Halve the muffuletta bun horizontally.
  • In a bowl, gently mix the tuna with the olive oil and anise seed.
  • Separately, combine the mayonnaise and anchovy paste.
  • Spread the mayonnaise evenly over both slices of bread and top the bottom half with the olive salad.
  • On top of that, add the tuna, compacting it to help it stay in place.
  • Scatter the shaved Pecorino evenly over the tuna and finish with the basil.
  • Place the bun on top and cut into four pieces.

Notes

  • To make tuna conserva, cut high-quality fresh yellowfin or albacore tuna into 2-3” pieces (to cook evenly). Sprinkle with sea salt and place in a shallow pan. Cover with extra-virgin olive oil and cook at 160F for 1 hour, or until you can flake the tuna with a fork.

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