If you're ever in New Orleans, make sure you try their signature sandwich, the Muffuletta. Just be sure to have an army with you, because those babies are huge! I remember when I first went to visit my cousins (I was 13 at the time) after they moved there, they brought me to Cafe Maspero in the French Quarter so I could try one. I swear that thing was the size of a Frisbee. I think my eyes popped out of my head like a cartoon character!
It's kinda like the Philly Cheese Steak debate - who makes the best version? The original came from Central Market, but most people swear by Maspero's. There is also a debate over what goes into the sandwich. The first ingredient is an olive salad. That much is non-negotiable. Some versions include ham, salami, and provolone, while others up the ante to include capicola, mortadella, and emmentaler. Whatever you decide, just so long as you have the olive salad, provolone, ham, and either salami or pepperoni, you should be golden.
When I lived in New Orleans, I used to love going to lunch meetings where they brought in sandwich trays that included mini muffalettas. They're so cute! Sadly, now that I live in New York, I don't have access to that nice chunky olive salad mix. My favorite was always Sal & Judy's, but I don't see it on their website now. I hope they didn't stop making it for some reason?!?
Every once in a blue moon, my Mom or her sister would send me a few jars to hold me over. We do have olive salad here. It's just not the same, and the only one I can find is teeny tiny. Another way I used to love that mix was at my old office. The cafe made a salad with lettuce, the olive mix, and Italian dressing. They would serve it as a side with pasta, etc., but it was so good, I would just order a big serving of the salad for my lunch.
Sooooo, I've had this jar of olive salad in the pantry for a while now. It was such a fine dice, I just didn't get that same "pull" from it to use it in a salad. I had anticipated getting around to using it on a pizza at some point, but then pasta salad popped into my head the other day, so I decided to go with that. Must be the weather. I can't believe how hot it has been this week!!
1/2 lb ditalini pasta (I wanted everything roughly the same size)
1/4 c Italian dressing (I made Good Seasons with balsamic vinegar)
1/4 lb ham, cubed
1/4 lb salami, cubed
1/4 lb provolone, cubed
16 oz olive salad
Cook the pasta to al dente, going easy with the salt since the olives, etc. will supply plenty.
I got the ham, salami, and provolone at the deli so I could ask for them in "slabs." That way I could dice them rather than having thin slices to deal with. Whatever you prefer is fine, just cut, chop, or tear it all into bite-sized pieces.
When the pasta is cooked, drain the liquid and immediately toss with the Italian dressing. That way, it will absorb that nice flavor. Hey, it's gotta have something to do while it's cooling down. ;)
Once the pasta has cooled to where it won't melt your cheese, go ahead and toss in everything else. I didn't want too much liquid in the bowl, so I spooned the olive salad out of the jar and sort of pressed the spoon against the side to squeeze out the excess.