by Debra Caffrey

As much as I find pleasure in cooking more elaborate dishes, as a busy mom, I appreciate simplicity and finding easy ways to get a crowd-pleasing dinner on the table. As the years go by, I have discovered guaranteed winners to keep in my meal-planning rotation, as well as “base” meal concepts that can be tweaked and customized to keep things varied. One of those concepts is something so easy it almost sounds silly, but it’s been quite a revelation in my Practical Pantry. And the big, fancy idea is–the giant sandwich! Seriously. creating a big, bountiful giant sandwich on the biggest rounded loaf bread you can find and splitting it up between your family members can be one of the easiest, quickest, cheapest, and yet delicious ways to get dinner done without lots of fancy cooking technique needed.

The concept of the giant sandwich for dinner is simple: get your favorite freshly baked loaf of bread from your store’s bakery section (long ciabatta, fat Italian loaves, or rounded sourdough or whole grain work well), fill it with yummy components, a zesty oil, dressing or spread, slice and serve! You can stick with deli meats and sliced cheeses, or experiment with grilled meats, roasted, raw or pickled vegetables for some kick and tang, and different pestos. It’s a virtual endless list of mix-and-match possibilities and everyone can contribute their ideas about how to make the next yummy giant sandwich. Best of all, there is only minor prep involved, easy clean-up and delicious leftovers! The concept of the giant sandwich is also a great idea for picnics, road trip lunches and dinners on the go for those weirdly-timed soccer games and late night rehearsals.

I’d love to share a recipe for one of my favorite giant sandwiches, the muffaletta. This delicious creation originated in New Orleans, but you don’t have to travel to experience how awesome it is. It’s super simple to make and definitely feeds a crowd! The star of the muffaletta is the tart olive salad, which soaks into the bread and provides a necessary and out-of-this-world balanced yumminess to the meats and cheeses. If you don’t have a food processor to coarse blend the ingredients, you can just finely chop by hand. You can also play around with the classic fillings; I’ve even done a vegetarian version with sprouts, radishes and carrots. No matter what you choose to do with your giant sandwich, adding this easy concept into your meal rotations will be a game changer for your busy weeknights. Have fun!

Giant Muffaletta Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup green, pimento-stuffed olives
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • ¼ cup giardiniera
  • 2 bottled pepperoncini peppers
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one large sourdough or soft Italian rounded bread loaf
  • ¼ lb sliced provolone cheese
  • ¼ lb mortadella
  • ¼ lb genoa salami
  1. Place olives, giardiniera, peppers, capers, garlic, oregano, oil, salt and pepper in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  2. Slice rounded bread loaf horizontally and spread half the olive salad mixture on bottom of loaf, and the rest on top of the cut loaf.
  3. Layer the bottom half of loaf with provolone, mortadella and salami, then carefully place the top of loaf back on top, flipping quickly to avoid olive salad falling out.
  4. Wrap entire giant sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the olive salad to soak into the bread.
  5. When ready to serve, unwrap sandwich and use a serrated knife to slice into quarters or smaller slices to serve everyone.

Enjoy!