[We have a wander around Italy on the hunt for the most typical dishes of our heritage. Which you can also replicate at home, if you fancy. That’s right, because we’re also going to give you the recipe!]
A slice of stale bread seasoned with fresh tomatoes and olive oil is a dish of disarming simplicity: inexpensive ingredients that, when put together, turn into a delicious, savoury and fragrant snack. It makes for the ideal appetiser for a summer dinner.
When you research its origins, you will find that Tuscany and Apulia, two agricultural regions of Italy, both claim to be a part of its ancestry, since historically, Bruschetta was prepared as a snack to reinvigorate farmers at work in the fields.
In Tuscany, Bruschetta is known as Fetunta (which translates as “oiled slice”) and is prepared with the typical “sciocco” bread, which, in the traditional Tuscan way, is made without any salt!
In Apulia, meanwhile, it is prepared with the famous Altamura bread and can also be garnished with oregano – the iconic aroma of southern Italy.
Like all seemingly simple recipes, it can be all too easy to trip up, resulting in Bruschetta that is burnt or, on the other hand, too soft, because it has soaked in all of the juice from the tomatoes. But never fear! We’re here to the rescue with some handy tips...
[preparation time: just under half an hour]
Ingredients [serves 4]
- 4 slices of homemade bread
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 large tomatoes (or 300g cherry tomatoes)
- 4 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- salt (to taste)
- pepper (to taste)
- oregano (to taste)
- fresh basil (a few leaves)
Step away from the toaster! The first step whenever making Bruschetta is always preparing the tomatoes, which you need to dice finely and then season with salt, olive oil and oregano.
If you want to make your Bruschetta even more fancy, you can remove the tomato skin first. All you need to do is blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds: the texture of the tomato will remain firm, while the skin will peel off easily.
Once you have seasoned your tomatoes, with or without the tomato skin, leave them aside in a bowl to rest for at least half an hour (in the fridge in the summer): this little trick will allow them to release any excess water while they marinate in that beautiful seasoning that smells of summer and the Mediterranean...
Now we can turn to the bread! The slices should be about 1.5 centimetres thick: the thinner they are, the harder they will become when toasted, until you can’t bite them anymore! Place the slices of bread on an oven-proof tray and toast them in the oven for a few minutes at 180oC, turning half way through to make sure both sides are crispy. Be careful not to burn them, it is easy to get distracted by their beauty... ;)
Rub the garlic on the still-warm slices, as though you were grating cheese. Half a clove per slice should do it, to give the perfect fragrance without overdoing it.
If you’re not a huge fan of garlic, you can always skip this step. But bear in mind that real Bruschetta should really smell of garlic!
Now it is time to top the bread with the tomatoes, scooping them out of their bowl using a small, slotted spoon: with all the excess water drained away, they should just soften the bread slightly without wetting it too much. This is the ultimate secret to a good Bruschetta: crispy, soft and fragrant.
Finish your masterpiece with a drizzle of olive oil and a few fresh basil leaves. And, if you like, you can add an extra sprinkle of oregano.
And voila, your 100% Mediterranean starter is served!
Buon appetito! 💗
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES…