The other day, I bought fresh fennel at the grocery store and made the most delicious bruschetta. This unconventional ingredient added a sweet and refreshing flavor, and satisfying crunch.
Undeterred by the way the big, awkward bulbs wouldn’t fit inside a standard tote bag, with their dill-like fronds poking out on top, I proudly carried the towering produce to the checkout line.
As someone who hates overcooked fennel, I’ve made it my mission to find the best ways to feature it raw in my recipes, to reap all the benefits of its delectably crunchy texture. And nothing I came up with was as good as this bruschetta.
I’ve always liked this fresh veggie appetizer, probably because I’ve always liked bread!
In its most traditional form, you’ll see bruschetta that includes a combination of tomatoes, garlic, and basil, sometimes with a sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar glaze drizzled on top.
Our version takes that classic idea and enhances it with the licorice-rich flavor and brilliant crunch of fresh fennel.
To assemble the bruschetta, toast slices of your favorite store-bought or homemade crusty baguette, top them with generous spoonfuls of the diced tomato and fennel mixture, drizzle with rich balsamic syrup, and enjoy immediately.
For garnish, we take advantage of the beautifully feathery fennel fronds and sprinkle those on top along with some reserved basil.
The result is bruschetta with a twist in both taste and texture that’s satisfying and incredibly fresh.Print
Juicy tomatoes, crunchy fennel, and tart balsamic vinegar join forces in this bruschetta recipe loaded with fresh garlic and fragrant basil.
- 2 1/2 cups diced ripe slicing tomatoes such as beefsteak or heirlooms (about 2 medium)
- 1/2 cup finely diced fennel bulb (about 1/2 medium), fronds reserved for garnish
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, divided
- 1 baguette or crusty Italian loaf (about 10 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch slices on a bias
- Balsamic syrup, for drizzling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Add the tomatoes, fennel, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, to a large bowl. Add the basil, reserving one tablespoon for garnish. Toss to combine. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature while you toast the bread, stirring occasionally.
- Brush both sides of each piece of bread with the remaining olive oil and arrange the slices on an unlined baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and toast, flipping each slice once halfway through baking, until golden-brown and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange on a serving platter.
- Evenly and generously spoon the tomato and fennel mixture on the top using a slotted spoon. If desired, lightly drizzle the tops with the balsamic syrup. Garnish with the fennel fronds and remaining basil. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Bruschetta
- Method: Toasting
- Cuisine: Appetizer
Keywords: bruschetta, tomato, fennel, garlic, basil, balsamic
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Gather, Measure, and Prep Ingredients
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Any type of juicy slicing tomatoes will work well for this recipe. Today, I chose the vine-ripened type that you often find at the store still attached to the stems. You can also use heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes from your garden, or take your pick of what’s available seasonally at the local farmers market.
Slice the tomatoes horizontally into rounds, keeping the layers stacked, then slice into strips in the opposite direction. Cut the strips crosswise to dice.
To prep the fennel, first remove the long green stalks attached to the top of the bulb by slicing them off with a sharp knife, leaving the bulb intact.
Remove the fronds from the stalks and set these aside for garnish. You can use the stalks in homemade stock or add them to your compost.
To dice the bulb, slice about 1/4 inch off at the base and remove any tough outer layers. Slice in half from root end to stalk end.
Finely dice one half as you would with an onion. Need a little help with this technique? You can review every step of slicing and dicing bulbous ingredients like onions, fennel, and shallots in our step-by-step tutorial.
Mince the garlic and measure the oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Chiffonade the basil leaves by stacking, rolling, and running your knife through them to create thin ribbons. Set about a tablespoon of basil aside for garnish.
Using a serrated knife, cut the baguette into 1/4-inch slices on a bias. This will create more surface area to hold the topping.
To make a balsamic syrup or glaze, add 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a small saucepot and place it over medium heat. You can add 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar if you like, to add sweetness. Bring to a gentle boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar has thickened to a syrupy consistency and reduced to about 1/4 cup.
I find the smell can be somewhat overwhelming, so feel free to grab balsamic syrup from the store instead. I’m a fan of this silky-smooth variety that’s available on Amazon.
Step 2 – Make the Tomato-Fennel Mixture
Add the diced tomatoes and fennel bulb, minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and the basil that wasn’t set aside for garnish to a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine and then season to taste with additional freshly cracked salt and pepper if necessary.
Set the bowl aside and allow the mixture to marinate at room temperature while you toast the bread, so the flavors can meld. Give it an occasional stir to make sure all of the diced pieces are evenly coated in the juices that collect in the bottom of the bowl.
Step 3 – Toast the Bread
Place the remaining oil in a small bowl.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush both sides of each piece of bread and then arrange them on an unlined baking sheet.
Toast, flipping each slice once halfway through to make sure the bread is evenly, until it’s golden brown and crispy. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
Step 4 – Top and Serve
Assemble the toast on a platter, decorative wooden cutting board, or charcuterie board.
Using a slotted spoon so you don’t oversaturate the bread with all the liquid in the bowl, evenly heap the tomato and fennel mixture over each piece of toast.
If you’re using balsamic syrup, lightly drizzle it over the slices. Garnish each slice with the fronds and reserved basil.
It’s best to serve this appetizer immediately, so you and your company can enjoy crispy slices of toast that aren’t soggy! To make this dish ahead of time, the vegetable mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for several hours and the bread can be toasted just before topping and serving.
It’s in the Baguette
Just like a superior sandwich, delicious bruschetta starts with excellent bread. If you can’t find a nice crusty baguette, use a good quality sourdough loaf, ciabatta, or pain paillasse to create a sturdy base.
Use a serrated knife to make even slices. For the vegetables, select a sharp knife to complete your prep work that will easily glide through the skin of the tomatoes and make your fennel prep a snap.
A dull blade just won’t cut it – pun 100% intended!
Will you keep this pretty platter all to yourself, or put it up for grabs at a party? Share how you plated and enjoyed this bruschetta in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
For more brilliant bruschetta and crostini ideas, try these tasty recipes next:
- Olive, Red Pepper, and Goat Cheese Crostini
- Peach Basil Crostini
- Camembert Cheese and Pistachio Basil Pesto Bruschetta
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on April 23, 2013. Last updated on August 7, 2022. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”