The combination of tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar is a classic that many people are very familiar with.
For me, this combo reminds me of one thing: Italy.
I studied abroad in Italy during my junior year of college, and at that time, I barely knew anything about food.
Of course, as an early-twenty-something woman of the world, I thought I knew everything. But the truth is, I definitely did not.
I only knew the cooking that I had experienced through my mother and my grandmother up to that point, and I had no idea how vast the sea of flavor that awaited me really was.
It was on one of my first nights in Rome that I first came across the simple trio of ripe tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar. The dish was a simple bruschetta that I devoured alongside a bottle of Chianti with my new roommates, and it was gone in a flash.
As I sit here eating a couple of these crostini, I am taken right back to that moment, and I am trying not to get lost in the reverie of this tangy deliciousness…
… Sorry about that, I’m back now. I just couldn’t resist finishing off all those tasty bites!
The acid from the tomatoes, the herbaceous and slightly sweet flavor of the basil, and the tang of the balsamic all meld together on your tongue to tickle your tastebuds. It is a flavor combination that really wakes up the palate, piquing your appetite for whatever delicious meal is to come.
This crostini recipe is the epitome of one of my favorite classic flavor combinations.
For this particular recipe, I combined grape and cherry tomatoes to get a range of acidic and fresh, sweet, earthy flavor. The smaller varieties are easy to roast with a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper, so there is very little active cooking time to make this dish.
Once they’re roasted, you spoon all of that caramelized and flavorful goodness onto toasted slices of Italian bread or a French baguette with freshly chopped basil and a tangy vinegar reduction that is a breeze to make.
If you haven’t made a balsamic reduction before, all you have to do is simply reduce plain balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on the stove until it is thick. I swear, it’s that easy. This also makes a wonderful garnish for a variety of dishes – feel free to put some in a squeeze bottle and decorate your plates with it, restaurant style. You may have a little left over for another use when you make this recipe.
Balsamic reduction is a great addition to this crostini because it is tangy, sweet, and a little sticky, bringing out the fresh flavors of the juicy produce and herbs in every single bite.
Just be sure to get the bread nice and toasted before you add the toppings. The crunch gives the added texture that you need to play against those deliciously roasted, soft tomatoes.
I highly recommend serving this up as an afternoon snack or an appetizer. It pairs well with red or white wine, and it is ideal for dining al fresco (i.e. the fancy way of saying “eating outside”) in the summer, when fresh garden produce is at its peak.
It’s also ideal for taking on a picnic, but I recommend prepping and then packing the various components separately. That way, the bread won’t get soggy before you reach your destination.Print
Roasted tomato crostini is one of the best easy appetizers for entertaining or date night. The tomato, basil, and balsamic combination is simply a classic.
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
- Slice the bread into pieces 1/2 inch thick, and toast them on a baking sheet for a few minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Remove to a serving platter.
- Place the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, parchment paper, or a silicone liner. Drizzle with 2 tsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and minced garlic. Toss to coat. Rearrange the tomatoes cut-side up before placing the tray in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and reduce the liquid until thick.
- Top toast rounds with roasted tomatoes, and sprinkle with fresh basil. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, reserved tomato juices from the pan, and the remaining olive oil. Serve immediately.
Keywords: tomato, crostini, summer, basil
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure
Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Wash the produce in a colander, and pat dry.
Slice the French baguette or Italian loaf into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Place on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
Halve the grape and cherry tomatoes. Set aside.
Finely mince the garlic or push it through your press, and set it aside.
Remove basil leaves from the stems and chop.
Measure out the remaining ingredients as listed.
Step 2 – Season
Add the tomatoes to a rimmed baking sheet lined with a Silpat, or your choice of foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and minced garlic.
Toss to coat (you could also do this in a bowl if you like, but it saves on dishes to do it right on the pan!), then turn eachn so it is arranged cut-side up.
Step 3 – Roast
Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
Be sure to reserve the flavorful juices instead of discarding them from the baking sheet when you remove it from the oven.
Step 4 – Make Reduction
While the tomatoes are roasting, add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan. Bring the vinegar to a boil, them reduce to a simmer over medium heat.
Continue to simmer until the balsamic vinegar is thick and syrupy. Remove from heat.
Step 5 – Assemble
Place the toasted baguette slices on a serving tray.
Evenly divide the tomatoes among the slices of bread, then drizzle the reserved juice over the top.
Sprinkle the chopped basil over the crostini and finish with a drizzle of the balsamic reduction and the remaining olive oil. Serve immediately.
Reap the Rewards of Roasting
If you ask me, roasting tomatoes is a lot like making tomato candy. Roasting caramelizes the sugars in the tomatoes and the garlic, taking their flavor to incredible new heights. Fresh tomato bruschetta is delicious, but this is something new and exciting to savor at dinnertime.
Not to mention, you will feel incredibly fancy serving these tasty bites. Everyone will be begging you for the recipe, thinking you spent hours cooking to bring out the natural flavors of the tomatoes and basil so expertly.
This is such a simple way to elevate the humble tomato, no matter what type you are roasting. Even when they are out of season, as long as the fruit is ripe, keep this one in your back pocket. They’re also delicious served over scrambled eggs, or added to an omelet filling.
For another seasonal crostini option that features fresh fruit and herbs, don’t forget to check out our recipe for a peach and basil version! Or, give these pear and maple crostini a try.
What’s your favorite kind of tomato? For me, it’s all about the small, sweet cherry. Let us know how you enjoyed this recipe in the comments below, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re there.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on July 13, 2011. Last updated: September 1, 2018 at 19:16 pm. With additional writing and editing by 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 Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.