This stuffed sandwich is a great little make-ahead meal, filled to the brim with roasted peppers, onions, zucchini, bacon, goat cheese, and fresh, peppery arugula. Every now and then, the "science" and "art" of cooking (okay, or dumping and stirring, in my case), still amazes me. And so, on that note, I must confess, that this muffleta seemed like magic to me! I had never made (or tasted!) this traditional Italian stuffed sandwich. And so, when I miraculously fit all of the ingredients into the bread shell, I was pretty impressed with myself. And then, when it held together after being sliced, well, I was ready to give myself an honorary degree or at the very least a pat on the back!
Traditionally, muffletas are stuffed with much more meat than this. But, if you've noticed...we don't eat very meat-heavy. I adapted this recipe from Rachel Allen's Favorite Food at Home (yes, I'm a little obsessed with that book these days), who listed the meats as optional. You can tell which option I took! But, if you're more of meat-eater than us, we won't hold it against you. Try adding in some ham, prosciutto, salami, or even smoked turkey.
The vegetables here roast up in about 30 minutes or so, and then it just takes a few minutes to assemble the sandwich. It's great if you make the night before, so that it can be pressed in the fridge over night. The key to keeping this all together when you slice it is to really stuff the sandwich, so much that you cannot possibly fit anything else in there. Again, I was so shocked by how much I could fit into that loaf of bread! It was like Mary Poppins and her purse...only in opposite! I just kept putting more and more in there!
Roasted Vegetable and Bacon Muffleta
adapted from Favorite Foods at Home, by Rachel Allen
2 large red onions, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced vertically into 1/4 inch thick slices
2-3 red bell peppers, seeded and stemmed, cut into thirds (feel free to substitute 2-3 bottled roasted red peppers packed in water, drained and allowed to dry a little)
8 slices bacon (turkey bacon or regular)
1 round loaf of bread, about 8 inches in diameter, preferably sourdough
2 Tbsp pesto (homemade or not, I won't tell on you)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water
4 ounces goat cheese (log or crumbles are fine, both will work)
a few large handfuls baby arugula leaves
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, spread the zucchini, red onions, and peppers (if roasting fresh peppers) on foil-lined baking sheets. Spread them out so that they will roast (if you put them all on one sheet they will just steam). Spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Toss with tongs to be sure everything is coated.
2. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are beginning to brown and caramelize. You can stir them once at the halfway point, but you can also just ignore them and they will be very forgiving.
3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon according to package directions.
4. Slice the very top off of the bread to create a "lid." Scoop out the inside, leaving a shell. The inside of the bread can be tossed into a food processor and then dried out in the oven to create fresh breadcrumbs, if you wish.
5. Thin the 2 Tbsp of pesto with 1 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp of water. Stir well. With a large spoon, coat the inside of the bread and the inside of the lid of the bread well with the pesto mixture.
6. Once the vegetables are out of the oven and slightly cooled, it is time to start stuffing the sandwich! (If you are using additional meats, put those in first.) Start with half of the bacon, and follow with half of the roasted peppers. Next, place in half of the goat cheese (crumbled or sliced.) The next layer is half of the roasted zucchini followed the by roasted red onions. At last, put in half of the arugula. Use your hands or a large spatula to gently push everything down, so there will be room for the next layer.
7. Repeat step 6 with the second half of the ingredients. The sandwich should be very, very full...if it is not, it will not hold together when you slice it. Once you have fit everything in, place the lid on top.
8. Cover the loaf in plastic wrap and place it on a large plate. Now you need to figure out a system to weight it! I have a panini press at home (not a machine, just a press to use on a sandwich on a skillet) that worked wonderfully. You could also place a second plate or a cutting board on top of the sandwich, and weigh it down with few cans or jars of jelly. Let it rest, pressed, in the fridge for 3 hours or up to a day before cutting into wedges and serving.
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