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08/21/2014 12:31 pm ET | Updated Oct 21, 2014

Our Hero: The Muffuletta

Keith Beaty via Getty Images

Tasting Table | Elyse Inamine

The muffuletta is one of the Great Sandwiches.

It's a stacked beauty of Italian cold cuts, crunchy olive relish and cheese--although a nice authentic one is pretty hard to find outside the Big Easy.

But with the right ingredients--good meat, a killer relish--and a little time, the sandwich isn't hard to make at home.

The key: Leave it alone. No, really. The muffuletta magic happens when the sandwich is pressed and all of the ingredients soak together into one sweet, briny, peppery, meaty, crunchy mess. That's why it's the perfect sandwich to make ahead for picnicking: It gets better with time.

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Here, the most important elements of making a monster muffuletta (get the recipe).

① Bread: You probably won't find the sandwich's namesake Sicilian bread outside of New Orleans. So you can substitute just about any white Italian loaf--we like a sesame-dusted, 6-inch-wide round. Scoop out the fluffy inside to make room for the fillings.

② Olive relish: The relish is absolutely essential. Ours involves quickly sautéed carrots, celery (and the inner leaves!) and cauliflower with a sprinkle of oregano, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar. Add in chopped pimiento peppers, zippy little pepperoncinis, oil-cured green and black olives. Make sure you slather both sides of the bread with the warm, tangy spread.

③ Cold cuts and cheese: Make it rain Italian meats--we like close to a pound of mortadella and hot soppressata on our sandwich. Look for thin cuts, but not too thin; you want the filling to be more meaty than delicate. And as for cheese, you can't go wrong with sliced provolone.

④ Sweet, sweet time: To let the muffuletta do its thing, cover the sandwich in plastic wrap, throw it in the fridge and let it sit overnight (or for at least an hour). Giving the muffuletta a little beauty rest concentrates all that briny relish flavor. And pressing it is key: Turn the sandwich upside down on a sheet pan and weight it with a cast-iron pan to compress the sandwich and infuse the bread--without a soggy bottom.

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