More than anything, Bruschetta is one way to eat the delicious tomatoes here. And by delicious, I mean, they taste better than all the tomatoes in all the lands in all the world. Deliziosissima. I have a serious love affair with my bruschetta.
Many people think that Bruschetta is a topping on bread. But, it is the opposite. The main hero of this popular antipasti, despite my love of ripe tomatoes, is the bread. The name actually comes from the verb (and Roman pronunciation) ‘bruscare’, which means ‘to roast over coals’. The bread is roasted or grilled over fire providing the taste and texture that is the foundation for bruschetta.
In the States, you will find jars of ‘bruschetta’, when in fact, that is a misnomer. Jars of bruschetta are really just a condiment. Here in Italy, it isn’t bruschetta without the gently charred bread the topping accompanies.
Originally, this toasted bread was used to taste olive oil during it’s production. Today, it’s toasty goodness is a standard antipasto menu item throughout Italy. However, it is topped in many ways, usually specific to regions. In Tuscany, you will find it topped with fresh tomatoes, pate (artichoke, olive, chicken liver) and sometimes it accompanies anchovies. In other regions, they will put meat and/or cheeses on top.
I have never been a real pasta person, but there is no denying, I am a bread person. I can live on good bread, cheese, veggies and wine. To go a step further, I can live off of bruschetta. Bread rubbed with garlic, grilled on a brustolina then drizzled with first-press, extra virgin olive oil. The bonus is the topping. Most days, for us, it’s the bright, bursting with nature’s goodness pomodori with fresh plucked basil, other days it’s plain (fettuna), some days it’s the ‘Abruzzo way’ with meat and cheese…and not going to lie, I’ve thought about making it my own ‘California way’ by sandwiching cheese in the middle a la grilled cheese sandwich style. For the record, I haven’t, not yet. Perhaps when we are back in California I can bastardize my beloved bruschetta with (*gasp*) cheddar cheese.
I love you, Bruschetta.
Bruschetta making tips from an Tuscan Italian Mama (as told to me):
- De-water your tomatoes - use only the flesh of the tomato, discard the juice and seeds prior to chopping into small dice. Then place in a colander, on top of a bowl, and salt the tomatoes (really swirl them around in salt). Put aside for 20-30 minutes. You will see residual water in the bowl. This ensures the tomatoes don’t soggy up your amazing toasted bread.
- Rip the basil, don’t cut it with a knife. Gently pull the leaf from the stem then tear into small pieces. This retains the integrity of the flavor, chopping it bruises the basil and leaves (no pun intended) some of the flavor behind.
- Use a Brustolina, a square grill device (shown) over a gas stove burner to infuse the proper roasted taste and texture. A toaster will not provide the right flavor for bruschetta.
- Add a pinch of pepper flakes and fresh-ground black pepper. Whether you’re a heat-fanatic or not, it adds a nice kick to brighten the flavor.
- Only use high quality, first press, extra virgin olive oil…and don’t hold back. Drizzle on the bread as well as mixed into the tomato topping. Unlike the tomatoes juice the olive oil will not make the bread soggy…only more delicious.
- Accompany with a good glass of wine (any type) and a good cheese, in my case, my favorite, fresh (young) pecorino.
PROTIP: IT'S PRONOUCED "BREW-SHKAY-TAH"