The Party Loaf Is the Old-School Recipe That’ll Blow Your Next BBQ Away

The Party Loaf Is the Old-School Recipe That'll Blow Your Next BBQ Away

Generally we are on the side of the devolution of power. But sometimes at a picnic, you need a central showstopper, something that emerges into the sunlight like a delectable Moby Dick sounding, an edible stupa, a delicious Kaaba around which everyone circumambulates in wonder and awe. Ye from the darkness of the picnic basket emerges the Party Loaf, long-neglected American classic, the staple of ladies luncheons of yesteryear, now reborn for gonzo picnics.

The Party Loaf —no two words work better both individually and in conjunction—consists of a loaf of sandwich bread sliced four times horizontally. On each level a different spread dwells. It’s like an apartment building or a Mt. Purgatory of sandwiches. The entire thing is ensconced in a cream-cheese frosting and finished with decorations according to one’s wont. It’s all very magisterial and mid-century, food from when the world seemed simpler.

Though it will certainly be the central element to your picnic spread, the party loaf is itself a democratic and flexible institution. What one spreads is up to you. In 1986, Betty Crocker recommended shrimp salad, deviled ham and olive-nut spreads enshrouded in a half-and-half-and-cream cheese frosting. But Ashley Rath, chef behind the Venice-inspired St. Theo’s in Manhattan, a fan of the Party Loaf on her few days off, layers hers with homemade mortadella mousse, a spicy creamy pasta salad and an egg-and-anchovy. The full recipe is here in all its glory. Like our rights, the spreads that make up a party loaf are unenumerated. The power belongs to the people but the party undeniably belongs to the loaf.

How to Build Your Own Party Loaf

Cut a pullman loaf into four equal slices, with no crust. Milk bread would also be ideal.

Add a ¼ inch spread of your choice to each layer. (Pictured here is mortadella mousse, pasta salad, and zucchini—full recipe below but you can do ‘olive tapenade, pimento cheese, whitefish, egg salad. If it spreads, and you dig it, it belongs in the Party Loaf.)

Place the layers on top of themselves and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove from the fridge and spread cream cheese evenly over the loaf. Optional: garnish with hard boiled egg, anchovies or some pickled parsley.

Slice, serve, party.

Jeffrey Westbrook

Recipe: Ashley Rath’s Party Loaf

Mortadella Mousse

¾ lbs mortadella (preferably red table)

½ cup mascarpone

¼ cup creme fraiche

Salt and pepper to taste


Dice the mortadela, reserving ¼ cup. Place the rest in a food processor with mascarpone and creme fraiche. Blend until smooth. Mix in salt and pepper to taste, fold in remaining diced mortadella

Pasta Salad

1 bag gomiti pasta, setaro brand

1 qt heavy cream

1 white onion, sliced

¼ lbs butter

¼ tsp chili flakes

¼ cup cream cheese

1 cup buffalo ricotta cheese

Salt to taste


Boil water, season with salt once boiling. Add pasta and cook for 9 minutes. Strain and cool with a little bit of olive oil.Melt butter in a pot with sliced onions,chili flakes and salt. Cook until translucent. Add heavy cream and reduce by half. Wisk in cream cheese and ricotta and pull of heat. Mix pasta and sauce together, refrigerate.

Pickled Zucchini

1 lbs zucchini

100 g olive oil

5 g salt

5 g sugar

15 g honey

200 g white wine vinegar

10 g garlic, microplaned

10 g mint roughly chopped.


Slice and grill zucchini, while cooking mix all of the other ingredients together. Cut the zucchini into ¼ inch half moons and place in the liquid.

Cream Cheese and Fontina Frosting

4 tbsp butter

½ cup milk

4 tbsp flour

½ cup diced fontina

1 tbsp onion powder

1 lbs cream cheese

Salt to taste


Melt butter, once frothing, add flour and toast until light color and smells like popcorn. Add milk and let sauce thicken (like a mornay sauce) then add fontine and whisk until melted. Put the cream cheese in a kitchen aid and whisk, slowly adding salt, onion powder and fontina mixture. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

The Assembly

Cut a pullman loaf into four equal slices, with no crust. Milk bread would also be ideal.

On one piece spread the mortadella mousse in a nice even ¼ inch layer, top with pistachios (toasted and cut).

On another piece add pasta salad in a nice even ¼ inch layer, top LIGHTLY with calabrian chili.

For another piece, strain the pickled zucchini out of its liquid and transfer to a bowl. Mix in equal parts sliced zucchini and fresh chopped parsley. Spread in a nice even ¼ inch.

Place the layers on top of themselves-mortadella on bottom, pasta salad in middle and zucchini on top- and refrigerate for an hour.

Remove from the fridge and spread the cream cheese and fontina frosting evenly over the loaf, saving some for a piping bag to garnish.

Use picked parsley, hard boiled egg (10 minute cook) and anchovies to garnish on top.

Joshua David Stein
Joshua David Stein has written for publications including _The New York Times, Fatherly, Esquire, and The Guardian.

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