Bruschetta is toasted bread seasoned with garlic and olive oil, commonly served warm as an appetizer, snack, or side dish. The name comes from the Italian word “bruscare”, which means “to roast over coals.” Many variations of bruschetta exist; adding tomatoes, other vegetables or beans is common. Bruschetta is Antipasto (plural antipasti), means “before the meal” and is the traditional first course (appetizer) of a formal Italian meal.
The simplest form of bruschetta starts with Tuscan bread, toasted either over coals or in a toaster. Rub the toasted slices with a cut clove of garlic, and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper the prepared bruschetta if desired. As a tradition, bruschetta serves to test the new harvest of olive oil each year.
Other variations include tomato, vegetables and/or cheese toppings. Sometimes the bread is nearly immersed in oil, but usually it is just drizzled. To prepare a tomato bruschetta, rub the toasted slices with a ripe cut tomato, or top the bread with a layer of chopped tomatoes seasoned with basil, salt, and pepper, and then drizzle with oil.
Bruschetta is also a means to use bread that is beginning to get stale by adding oil and seasonings to improve flavor. Many variations of bruschetta use uniquely flavored roasted or hard breads. A vegetable bruschetta might incorporate mushrooms, roasted peppers, and/or olives. Cheese topped versions can include feta, mozzarella, parmesan, or even blue cheese.
The breads used for bruschetta vary; some recipes call for Italian, French, or baguette. The most common breads used for bruschetta are two versions of pane pugliese, piadana and crescente. However, traditional bruschetta is made with Tuscan bread, which is a rather tasteless, white bread with a crunchy crust.
Common bruschetta recipes include toppings such as white beans, Swiss chard, walnuts or pine nuts, and roasted or bell peppers. Ingredients for a bean topped bruschetta include white beans, chopped plum tomatoes, olives, olive oil, salt and pepper. After the bread is toasted and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkle with goat cheese and top with the bean mixture.
Another bean bruschetta includes cloves, lemon juice, and walnuts. Other recipes include versions with eggplant, clams, or lentils. Bruschetta recipes that could serve as main dishes include sausage, artichokes, or shrimp.