Bruschetta at its simplest is grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. This is “bruschetta alla romana” and the backbone of the Roman antipasto. Of course there’s no reason to stop there – bruschetta topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, sliced tomatoes and oregano, asparagus cream, olive pate, the variations are infinite.
Some claim that bruschetta originates from the ancient Roman habit of testing the season’s new crop of oil on slices of bread (a tradition that continues in parts of Tuscany today). It is known for certain that in 15th century Italy, there was the practice of toasting almost-stale bread on fireplaces and drizzling it with olive oil.
Roman bruschetta is traditionally made on pane casereccio di Genzano, which was designated IGP (of “protected geographic indication”) in 1997. This means that to be called “pane casereccio” the bread must not only be made of the traditional ingredients – type 0 and 00 flour, salt, water, and finely ground wheat bran – but also must be produced in the small town of Genzano. Obviously, you cannot find pane casereccio outside of Lazio. You can substitute any moderately dense bread – it should be strong enough to stand up to being soaked in tomato juices and oil without falling apart. A good sourdough would be especially tasty.
One last note – if you have the opportunity to order bruschetta in Italy, it’s pronounced bru-SK-etta, not bru-sh-etta as is commonly said in the United States. Buon appetito!
- A loaf of high-quality, firm bread
- Several cloves garlic, peeled
- High-quality extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 ripe tomatoes
- Fresh basil
- Dried oregano
Bruschetta alla Romana:
- Slice the bread in thick slices (about 2 cm or ½ inch).
- Grill, toast, or broil until the bread is a deep golden brown.
- Rub the toasts with a whole, peeled garlic clove then drizzle generously with olive oil.
Bruschetta al Pomodoro:
- Follow steps 1, 2, & 3 above.
- Chop up several tomatoes and mince fresh basil. Mix with a pinch of dried oregano in a bowl.
- Spoon on top of toasts. Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with thinly sliced basil.