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Bruschetta with tomatoes is a classic Italian recipe that is super easy to make and naturally vegan. Made with simple healthy ingredients, it can be enjoyed as an antipasto (starter) or as a main. This recipe is easy, healthy, crunchy, tasty, and comforting.
Italian bruschetta is a humble dish made from thick grilled slices of stale bread rubbed with garlic and topped with good quality extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. It has become such a loved dish that these days you'll find bruschetta served during aperitivo in fancy Italian bars and cafes in hip neighbourhoods around Rome, Florence and Milan.
If you are lucky to travel around the Italian country side you can try this dish made with homemade sourdough bread toasted on a charcoal grill rubbed with garlic while still warm and topped with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. The combination of these simple ingredients is a match made in heaven.
In this post we make a classic bruschetta and a bruschetta with tomatoes, however you can top your bruschetta with pretty much anything you have at hand. See the variation section below for more ideas.
For other delicious and quick Italian appetizers and salads, check out our:
- Pasta salad with lemon vinaigrette
- Italian rice salad
- Potato salad
- Panzanella salad (stale-bread Italian salad)
- Roasted bell peppers
- Italian barley salad
- Roasted veggies
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Bread: get good bread from your local baker, ideally a big wide loaf made from mainly wheat flour and even better if made with sourdough. Get one with a compact crumb and a nice crust and cut slices that are at least 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) thick.
Avoid packaged toast bread for bruschetta, its texture is too soft and weak. It won't hold your toppings and it won't be as satisfying when you bite into it.
Also avoid baguettes as the slice will be too small and too soft to hold the toppings and it will get too moist too fast.
- Garlic: to brush on the bread.
- Extra virgin olive oil: if you can afford it invest in some good quality extra virgin olive oil. The best oils are generally cold pressed but they can get very expensive.
- Ripe vine tomatoes or cherry tomatoes: it's important that the tomatoes are very ripe to have the best flavour. If it's not tomato season opt for small cherry tomatoes.
- Balsamic vinegar: if you can, look for a quality stamp that says that says "Aceto Balsamico di Modena I.G.P." That means that the vinegar is made in a protected and specific geographical area around Modena in Italy, following traditional methods of production.
- Basil leaves: fresh basil is my personal favourite for this bruschetta, however you can replace this with dried or fresh oregano.
- Salt and pepper.
We use a serrated knife to cut the bread and the tomatoes. This way is easier.
Use the right tomatoes
During tomato season - that is from May to October in the northern hemisphere - try to get your hands on organic red ripe tomatoes from sunny regions. In winter opt for small cherry or date tomatoes.
Keep the tomatoes out of the refrigerator
Eat raw tomatoes at room temperature for best flavour. When you eat your tomatoes cold they'll taste of nothing as the cold will strongly reduce the ability of your taste buds to taste flavours.
Marinate the tomatoes
Marinating your tomato mix is important to get a rounder flavour. The garlic will infuse your mix without overpowering it and the tomatoes will absorb some of the salt and vinegar that will enhance their taste. You only need 15 minutes at room temperature for this.
Drain off excess tomato water
Remove at least half of the water that comes out of the tomatoes when you cut them or else your bruschetta with tomatoes will be too wet. You want to leave some of the water as it is full of taste and will help soften the bread.
Some more tips
Don't add oil before toasting the bread
Some people add oil before toasting the bread, however we strongly recommend you not to do that. First, the heat will ruin the flavour of the oil and if you spent money on a good quality cold pressed olive oil you definitely don't want to ruin it by warming it up. Second, oils can burn and when heated on a grill it will create unhealthy compounds that you don't want to eat.
Rub the garlic
Rub the garlic on the bread while still hot. The heat will help the garlic aroma infuse into all the little cracks of the bread crumb. It will taste so much better than just adding garlic slices into your toppings.
Eat it asap!
Eat toasted bread as soon as ready as with every second that passes it will loose fragrance and moisture becoming harder and harder and less enjoyable to eat.
Remove the black burned parts
It can happen that when you toast the bread some parts will burn and turn black. Golden and brown parts are fine, but if you notice black charcoal like spots on your bread you should rub them off. Acrylamide, a substance you don't want to eat, is on burnt bread.
Questions & answers
It's pronounced broo-sketta, not bruh·sheh·tuh!
Yes, if made with healthy ingredients and without animal products on top. If you make it with artisan sourdough bread, tomatoes, a good olive oil, sea salt and garlic is definitely an healthy meal.
Yes. But you should assemble it last minute. Slice the bread and prep the tomato mix (or any other topping) ahead of time. Then when your guests arrive toast the bread and top it up with your tomato mix.
No. Bruschetta with tomatoes cannot be frozen.
You can top the bruschetta with almost any vegetable. The most important thing is that you season or cook the vegetable first. Here are some examples:
- Sautéed mushrooms with parsley: in a pan sauté some chopped mushrooms with a tbsp of olive oil and a clove of garlic. Season with salt, pepper and freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley.
- Red peppers: roast whole red peppers in the oven for 1 hour. Peel them and clean them, then marinate them for 15 min in olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and fresh basil.
- Roasted aubergines: roast some round slices of aubergine in the oven at 200˚C (390˚F) for 30 minutes, then brush them with an mix of olive oil, salt and finely chopped garlic and parsley.
- Avocado and tomato mix: add some chopped avocado to the tomato mix described in this recipe.
- Avocado mash: use a guacamole recipe, or just mash some ripe avocado with a fork, then add olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of lemon juice or vinegar.
- Cauliflower mash: steam or boil the cauliflower, then mash it with a fork in a bowl. Then add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, finely chopped parsley and a clove of crushed garlic. Mix with a spoon and let marinate 15 min.
- Chickpea tomato mix: add some chickpeas to the tomato mix described above.
- Broccoli mash: boil or steam some broccoli, then mash it in a bowl, add olive oil, salt, and chili flakes.
- Sautéed spinach: in a pan warm up a tbsp of olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. Then add the spinach and sauté until the spinach water has evaporated. Add salt, pepper and some chili flakes.
- Melted vegan cheese: get your favourite vegan cheese and place it on the bread before toasting the bread in the oven.
- Any type of hummus: classic chickpea hummus, red pepper hummus, fava bean hummus. Rub the bread with some extra garlic for the best hummus bruschetta, then drizzle with some good olive oil and sea salt.
Eat your bruschetta with tomatoes as soon as it's ready to preserve its fragrance and crunch. You can however store the toppings in the fridge for a few days in an air tight container. You can also store the bread in a bread basket for up to a week before turning it into bruschetta.
In the past farmers prepared bruschetta with stale bread, so don't worry if your bread is a bit dry. It will regain crunch and moist once you warm it up and add some toppings on it.
If you travel around Italy you will notice that restaurants and pizzerias serve bruschetta with tomatoes as a starter and in more recent days as an aperitivo before the dinner.
At home Italians most often eat bruschetta as a main meal in the evening. People just toast a bunch of leftover bread, rub it with garlic, and serve it with all the left overs they have in the house.
At the plant based school we like to eat bruschetta for dinner next to a massive salad full of leafy greens and legumes (chickpeas, lentils or beans) to get the best nutritional profile out of our meal and get a full protein profile with simple healthy ingredients.
Bruschetta with tomatoes
- 500 g (17.5 oz) bread sliced
- 500 g (17.5 oz) ripe tomatoes
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic
- 15 leaves basil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 0.5 tsp pepper
- Rinse the tomatoes, then with a paring knife remove their stem. With a serrated knife (bread knife) cut the tomatoes in slices. Then cut the tomato slices into small dice of similar size.
- In a bowl, add the diced tomatoes while draining some of their liquid, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed and peeled garlic cloves, sea salt, pepper, and basil leaves that you tear apart with your hands.
- Mix well with a spoon until all the ingredients are well combined together. Taste and if necessary adjust flavour. Let marinate at room temperature for about 10 - 15 minutes
- In the meantime, slice the bread into 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) thick slices. Toast the bread in the oven - preferably with grill function - until golden and crunchy. If the edges of the bread get dark and burned, scrap away that part with a knife as it is very unhealthy to eat.
- Put the toasted bread on a cutting board or serving plate, then with a spoon put some tomato mix on top.
- If you want to make white bruschetta you just need to rub the toasted bread with some garlic, then add some good quality extra virgin olive oil and sea salt on top.
Did you try this recipe at home? Let us know in the comments below, or take a picture and tag us on Instagram @italiaplantbased.