How to Make Bruschetta
What is Bruschetta?
Bruschetta (pronounced brew-SKET-tah) is an Italian dish that starts with a slice of rustic Italian bread brushed with olive oil and grilled over coals until toasted. You can serve bruschetta by simply rubbing a halved garlic clove over its crusty grilled surface for a minimalist approach, or you can top bruschetta with a wide array of ingredients such as chopped tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, olives, onions, artichoke hearts, and so on.
Although bruschetta (plural bruschette) is usually served as an antipasti — a light first course or appetizer — Chef John makes a Grilled Swordfish Bruschetta that could qualify as a summery main dish. And savory's not the only way to go with bruschetta; this Strawberry Bruschetta makes an unusual dessert. You can even combine sweet and savory, as in this Peach Brûlé Burrata Bruschetta.
Bruschetta is similar to crostini (kruh-STEE-nee), which means "little toasts" in Italian, and which can also be served with toppings. But the difference between bruschetta and crostini lies in the bread. Bruschetta is typically made with a larger, thicker slice of rustic bread, and crostini are sliced from long, narrow loaves and are usually cut more bite-size than bruschetta.
You can point out the fine differences the next time someone serves you crostini and calls it bruschetta, and vice versa, but only if you want to be known as that person. Proceed with caution.
How to Make Bruschetta
Which Comes First, the Bread or the Toppings?
Should you prep the toppings first or grill the bread first? If you're going to serve the bruschetta right away, it's best to prep the toppings first to let the flavors ripen, then grill the bread right before serving so it's hot and fresh when you top it. However, if you need make-ahead convenience, it's okay to grill the bread a few hours ahead of time and store it until you're ready to dish up.
Prepare the Toppings
- Your bruschetta will only be as good as your ingredients. Use good quality bread, pay a little extra for first cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and use fresh, ripe, seasonal ingredients.
- Make toppings with fresh tomatoes about an hour in advance so the ingredients have time to develop the glorious juices you'll want to spoon over the bread. This top-rated recipe for Balsamic Bruschetta has a classic mixture of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper ready to soak into charred and crusty slices of bread.
- If you'll be spreading soft cheese on your bruschetta, set it out about 30 minutes before serving so it can soften up. Nikol's Garlic Bruschetta is spread with goat cheese before topping with tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
Toast the Bread
Slice the bread into the sizes you want, brush both sides with good quality olive oil, and toast or grill both sides of the bread. You can grill the bread on a grate over hot coals (like the ancient Romans did) or use a ridged grill pan to get lovely grill marks. Depending on how hot your grill is, this could take 1 to 3 minutes. After the bread is toasted, you can cut open a clove of garlic and rub it on the crusty surface of the bread. Watch out — a little garlic goes a long way.
Note: Grilling the bread over a coal fire gives it a rustic char and smokiness that deepens the flavor and the visual appeal of your bruschetta.
How to Serve Bruschetta
You can serve bruschetta ready-topped with ingredients, or you can set out bowls of toppings and let everyone go DIY. Personally, I like the unfussy build-it-yourself option, but there may be times when ready-topped works best.
For example, this Artichoke Bruschetta recipe has you top the bread and broil it briefly until it's melted and bubbly before serving.
Served hot or cold, bruschetta is always a quick and easy addition to any casual meal.
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