Bruschetta is a classic light Italian appetizer, or antipasto, perfect for summer get-togethers in the back yard. In its simplest form bruschetta is grilled bread rubbed with a bit of garlic before being drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.
Historical cookbooks show that this dish originated in Italy around the 1400s, most likely in and around Tuscany, but it may trace its roots all the way back to ancient Rome.
Simple, delicious and endlessly variable, bruschetta is often topped with things like salumi, cheese or veggies. However the combination of tomato, onion or garlic and basil as a topping is so common that in some stores you may see pre-made “bruschetta” (without the bread) for sale all by itself.
The spelling difference relates to different pronunciations of this dish. In Italy the bruschetta is “broo-SKET-ah,” and the spelling reflects that.
Elsewhere the pronunciation is often softened and the “k” sound is removed, leaving you with “broo-SHET-ah.” Otherwise the dish is the same.
Both of these dishes originated in Medieval Italy, when it was common for a lot of people to use a slice of bread for a plate (fine dining ware was for the wealthy and royalty). The difference between these two antipasti are size and preparation.
Bruschetta is a bit larger, usually cut from a bigger Italian loaf, and grilled. Crostini are often cut from baguettes – one piece equals about one bite – and toasted.
Bruschetta is always rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt, if nothing else, whereas plain crostini may come with salads or soups – like croutons.
Bruschetta should be nice and crisp to bite into – soggy just isn’t as delicious! To keep your bread from getting soft, make sure you grill it well before you add any toppings.
That way your bread will hold up under the weight of the topping, and not soak up too much of its liquid.
You can also make the toppings ahead of time but wait to assemble your bruschetta until your guests have arrived, or serve the grilled pieces of bread with the topping in a bowl on the side so your guests can assemble each piece themselves.
At the height of summer, when no one wants to eat anything heavy, bruschetta itself can serve as a light meal.
While you can make bruschetta any time of year, the best time is tomato season. Ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden or your farmer’s market make the very best bruschetta.
Canned can be used off season, but for a real taste of Italy use in season produce whenever you can. Larger tomatoes may prove a bit too juicy for this dish, so look for plum or even cherry tomatoes instead.
You can dice the tomatoes fine or rough chop them, as long as they’re easy to eat on top of your bread.
When it comes to choosing which bread to use for the perfect bruschetta recipe, a good dense bread with a nice crust is what you want to find. In Italy, we use pane Toscano, literally Tuscan bread, but any bread, like ciabatta, could work.
Italian bakeries will have lots of choices of bread, but if you don’t live near one don’t worry. A small homemade loaf of bread or a French baguette will do just fine. What you’re looking for is bread hearty enough to grill and then hold your toppings.
If you’re planning on taking bruschetta to a gathering you can of course make the toppings ahead of time, but it’s best to wait to grill your bread until just ready to serve.
Pre-grilled or toasted bread may become too hard if done hours or even the day before serving.
Kept in the fridge the homemade topping for your bruschetta should keep for up to a week but not really any longer. Freezing is a good longer term option.
Your bruschetta should last at least six months if not longer in the freezer. Just make sure it’s stored in an airtight container.
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