Italian food doesn’t always have the reputation of being particularly easy to make.
While the flavors are classic, fresh, and somewhat uncomplicated, it can take hours to bring the home experience to the level of what Italian grandmothers have been perfecting for decades, like that perfect plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
There are plenty of tricks and shortcuts to make Italian food less time consuming and easier to make at home. But sometimes, it’s worth sticking to the original recipe. And that’s where this bruschetta appetizer comes in.
I studied abroad in Rome for five months back in college, so I can attest to the fact that this simple bruschetta recipe tastes just like the snack I used to devour in Campo di Fiori.
Tomatoes and basil are my two favorite ingredients, especially when they’re paired up. And there’s nothing like a fresh batch of bruschetta, made even better with the additional flavor bomb that is fresh garlic. The taste is crisp, acidic, refreshing, and herbaceous.
When combined, these simple ingredients are delicious served over sliced and toasted Italian bread, or a French or sourdough baguette. The authentic taste of Italy comes through in every single bite, making it a comforting and easy appetizer that you’ll want to make for every single party you host.
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of fresh vegetables, or if your kids refuse to eat anything green, everyone in your household will fall in love with this recipe.
In Italy, bruschetta is a simple dish that everyone seems to know how to whip up at the drop of a hat. And it is especially popular when the warmer weather rolls around, made with fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden.
This is the time when people start taking advantage of sitting outside, enjoying a glass of wine, and munching on a few pieces of bruschetta while they watch the children play in the piazza.
You may not have a piazza in your neighborhood, but your surroundings will be elevated to become just as fantastic with a plate full of homemade bruschetta enjoyed al fresco. You can pair this lively recipe with red or white wine, so no matter what you prefer to imbibe, it’ll pair perfectly with this tomato-based snack.
Roma tomatoes are my absolute number one pick for making this recipe. A popular type of plum tomato, there aren’t too many seeds to cut out, and the tomato itself holds up well to being peeled and handled as needed.
You can use your choice of bread, but the main pointer here is to always, always toast it. The crunch is exactly what you need to pair with the juicy topping for an extra crunchy bite with wonderful texture.
These would be great to take along on a picnic. Simply keep the bruschetta topping separate from the bread, and assemble once you arrive at your picnic destination.
The bruschetta mixture itself is juicy and delightful, but there’s a secret to this bruschetta that makes it truly over-the-top with savory flavor:
After it’s toasted, you rub or spread the bread with garlic.
I prefer to use crushed garlic so you actually get a good layer on there, but you can also simply rub the slices of toasted bread with a garlic clove to get the flavorful essence in a more mild form.
If you really want to take it over the top, you can use mashed roasted garlic instead, one of my favorite flavors.
I really love the taste of freshly ground black pepper, and a couple of turns over the top just before serving is quite delicious.
If you don’t have a pepper mill on hand, I recommend looking into your options and adding one to your kitchen collection ASAP. That pre-ground stuff on your spice rack will work, but it’s missing that pop of flavor that we’re looking for.Print
Fresh tomato, basil, and garlic, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, come together in this easy, classic bruschetta appetizer.
- Start by boiling a large saucepan of water on the stove over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large mixing bowl about halfway with ice, and the rest of the way with cold water. Remove the pan of water from the burner as soon as it reaches a boil.
- Immediately add your tomatoes to the boiling water and let them blanch for about 1 minute.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes, using a small knife to gently peel them away. Quarter the tomatoes, and discard the seeds and stems.
- Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 450°F and place a baking rack in the topmost position.
- Chop the tomatoes into fine pieces and place them in a large mixing bowl with the basil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to combine.
- Cut the bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices, and brush some olive oil on one side of each piece. Arrange the bread oil side down on a baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven on the top rack and toast for 4-6 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn.
- Remove the pan from the oven. Flip each piece of toast, brush with oil, and smear with garlic paste.
- Arrange the toast on a serving tray and spoon some of the tomato mixture evenly onto each slice. If you won’t be serving immediately, wait to top the toast until ready to serve.
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure
Wash all of the produce well, and pat the basil dry with paper towels.
Mince the garlic cloves, using a garlic press to make a paste.
Measure the remaining ingredients and set aside.
Step 2 – Prepare the Tomatoes
To prepare the tomatoes, first you’re going to want to blanch them, to make it easier to remove the skins. If you like, you can skip this step, but it makes a nicer finished product.
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl, by filling it at least halfway with ice and cold water. We’re going to use the same method here that you may be familiar with from our guide to blanching almonds to remove the skins.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat as soon as it is boiling.
Add the whole tomatoes and let them soak in the hot water for about 1 minute, until the skins begin to wrinkle and split. Drain the tomatoes, and transfer immediately to the ice bath. This will quickly cool them and prevent them from cooking any further.
Use a small knife to gently peel the skins away from the tomatoes, then cut them into quarters. Remove the cores and seeds, chop, and place them in a large bowl.
Step 3 – Toast the Bread
You can toast the bread however you like, but I prefer to brush it with oil on one side, and toast it until golden brown in the toaster oven. You could also use your regular oven, preheated to 450°F or a low broil setting.
Whatever you do, keep an eye on your bread as it toasts, because you don’t want it to burn! Remove from the toaster, flip each slice, and set aside.
Step 4 – Make the Topping
Add the basil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup olive oil to the bowl and stir together gently until combined.
Step 5 – Rub with Garlic
Brush your baguette toasts with more oil if desired, and spread each slice with a bit of minced garlic paste. Roasted garlic would also be delicious here.
If you’d like a milder garlic flavor, simply rub a whole garlic clove on each toasted slice instead.
Arrange on a serving platter.
Step 6 – Assemble
Add one to two tablespoons of tomato topping to each slice of bread. Serve immediately.
If you are saving this dish for an event later in the day, keep the bruschetta topping in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Wait to toast the bread slices until just before your meal, and assemble right before serving.
Recreating the Taste of Italy at Home Has Never Been This Easy
Honestly, any way you slice it (haha, get it? Like sliced bread? Well, I digress…), you will not be able to stop devouring this snack.
The tomato, the basil, the garlic, and the seasonings, combined on top of crunchy toasted bread, creates an unforgettable explosion of textures and flavors.
Need some ideas for what to serve as the main dish, with this bruschetta as the opener?
Consider making Simple Stovetop Lasagna, for One (you can easily double this to feed more people) or an easy Chicken Parmesan Bake to keep the Italian theme going throughout the meal. Both are more American than classically Italian, but you can’t deny how well they go together.
To me, it’s so intriguing to discover that such a simple recipe can be so addictive. It only takes a few minutes to whip up, and you will never tire of making it. This appetizer has become a staple in my home, and I’m sure it will become one in yours as well.
Do you love the classic tomato basil combination? Tell us about in the comments below, and don’t forget to rate our recipe.
And for more tasty bruschetta or crostini options, try these delicious variations:
- Camembert Cheese and Pistachio Basil Pesto
- Olive, Red Pepper, & Goat Cheese
- Balsamic Tomato & Fresh Fennel
- Herbed Carrot Tartines
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Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lynne Jaques on June 10th, 2014. Last updated: October 25, 2020 at 12:24 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.