Bruschetta has very humble origins. From 1650 on, Italian peasants upgraded old bread with tomato.
The tomatoes were usually seasoned with garlic, basil and olive oil. All ready available ingredients.
The name derives from the Italian verb ‘abbrustolire‘ which translates as to toast.
As it goes with easy and tasty dishes, the fame spread. And soon city folk started having bruschette as well.
Bruschetta: few but excellent ingredients
The secret of the bruschetta lays in the ingredients. Tomatoes and basil ripe in the same period. While garlic and olive oil are staple to the Southern Italian cuisine.
Bruschette stand or fall by the ingredients. Insipid tomatoes result in bland bruschette. Rancid oil results in disaster.
Nor does the excellence of one ingredient covers the others.
Bread is fundamental for bruschetta. Do not use white bread. It is too spongy and tends to get soggy.
When using fresh bread, toast it till it gets golden brown. Ideally use old bread. It only needs a rapid toasting since it has a low water content.
After toasting the bread, let it cool down. You don’t want the tomato and seasoning to heat.
Tomatoes are fundamental for bruschetta. Though there is no preference in type.
Actually, there is. Use ripe, seasonable and local tomato. You cut them up, so form is not an issue.
Apart from the peduncle, remove nothing. Just wash and dry them thoroughly. Remember: good tomatoes smell like…tomatoes
Cut the washed tomatoes in approximately one by one centimetre cubes. Add olive oil, hand thorn basil leaves, crushed garlic and some salt. Leave the mixture alone for at least one hour. Preferably in a bowl, at room temperature. If you please, you can take the garlic out. If you plan to leave it in, better cut it in smaller pieces.
Wait till the toasted bread cools down. Spoon some of the mixture on the bread and serve straight away.
You can conserve the mixture for a couple of days in an airtight container, in the fridge.
Variations on a theme
Bruschetta is not a dish but rather a way to season bread. So variations are plenty. Sicilians often add anchovy. Whereas others add seasoned cheese.
One of our favourites comes with crumbled feta cheese. It heralds summer time and idle days.
Avoid adding cured meat and elaborated ingredients. Bruschette are a symbol of simplicity after all.