Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta

In this article and recipe, Amy Gulick with Great Italian Chefs shares the tasty tradition of bruschetta in Italy.*

Like so many of Italy’s best dishes, bruschetta owes its origins to la cucina povera, whose customary marriage of frugality and ingenuity among Italy’s peasant class dictated that nothing edible ever be tossed out.

In the case of bruschetta, stale bread is made over to something not just edible but really tasty, by the mere act of toasting and topping with quality ingredients like sun-ripened, organic tomatoes and an impeccable extra virgin olive oil.

Basic bruschetta is remarkably simple, comprised of a toasted (or grilled) slice of bread – preferably a rustic, hardy kind such as Tuscan or Pugliese – rubbed with fresh garlic while still warm, then drizzled with olive oil and dusted with salt and pepper. In many places, the custom is to brush these ingredients on both sides of the toasted bread, making for a seriously heady flavor experience and rather messy fingers.

Wherever tomato production excels, bruschetta served with chopped tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil or oregano, and olive oil has also become very popular. In fact, unless specified otherwise, ordering bruschetta in an Italian restaurant often means this tomato version instead of the basic garlic-and-oil type.

A few words on the name: In Italian, the word for something toasted is abbrustolito or bruscato, the latter from the verb bruscare, synonymous with bruciare ("‘to burn") but also meaning to brush with a brusca – a large brush with coarse bristles, similar to the type used to brush horses. Since bruschetta is both "burned" and "brushed," possibly the name derives from both these verbs. Other names for bruschetta vary from region to region. For instance, in Tuscany it’s known as fettunta, from fetta ("slice") and unta ("oiled" or "greased").

Bruschetta al Pomodoro (Tomato Bruschetta)
Recipe courtesy of Amy Gulick*

4 large slices of bread, such as rustic
14 ounces tomatoes
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves
4-5 basil leaves, plus more to garnish
Sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Dice the tomatoes and place in a large strainer. Salt the tomatoes generously and thoroughly combine to coat all the tomatoes with salt.

Place the strainer on a plate or in a bowl and allow to rest for 15–20 minutes, jostling occasionally to encourage the liquids to expel. While not fundamental, this step firms up the tomato flesh and facilitates the release of the slippery pulp and seeds.

Most of the salt will rinse away. If you skip this step, salt accordingly when you add the other ingredients to the tomato.

Dump the excess liquid away and gently shake the strainer (over the sink) to filter out the seeds. Removing all of the seeds is nearly impossible, but most of them will come away.

Taste a piece of the tomato. If still too salty, sprinkle with a small amount of water and shake again.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and add the olive oil. Tear in the basil leaves and finely grate in ½ to 1 garlic clove. Grind in some black pepper (optional) and combine thoroughly.

Grill or toast the bread slices until golden on both sides. Scoop the tomato onto each slice and garnish with additional basil. For an extra kick, rub the slices with the second garlic clove before adding the tomato.

1 Bread

* Editor's note: The featured bruschetta photo is published courtesy of Amy Gulick. Her recipe and article first appeared on Great Italian Chefs; explore more recipes from some of Italy’s best chefs here. Then, check out Amy's own website, The Bittersweet Gourmet, which she writes from "a tiny village in the Tuscan countryside."