This classic tomato and basil bruschetta recipe shows you how to make this popular Italian aperitivo snack or dinner starter the traditional way. It’s a quick and easy recipe that relies on little else but flavourful tomatoes, fresh fragrant basil and good quality olive oil.
In my recent posts on pro chef lessons for home cooks and the 10 things I learnt working in restaurant kitchens that are useful in home kitchens, I touched on my experience making traditional tomato and basil bruschetta night after night in my friend John’s little Surry Hills Italian bistro many years ago.
I was looking for a link to an authentic tomato and basil bruschetta recipe that was close to the way that John had taught me how to make these popular Italian aperitivo snacks all those years ago, which was exactly the way they’re made in Italy. Little did I realise how challenging that would be. Most recipes had way too much garlic, red onions, and, worst of all, balsamic vinegar.
A classic tomato and basil bruschetta recipe should not be a potion to ward off vampires. Bruschetta, which is pronounced ‘broo-sketta’ or ‘bruws-keh-da’ not ‘broo-shetta’ or ‘broo-chetta’, is meant to be a refreshing aperitivo snack or dinner starter, a palate cleanser designed to get the taste buds activated to go on to your first course of dinner or heavier snacks. Fresh onion and balsamic vinegar? That’s a no.
Classic Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Recipe – How to Make The Italian Aperitivo Snack
I was taught that what makes a great classic tomato and basil bruschetta is fresh tomato, preferably very ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes. Not crushed tomatoes from a tin, as some bruschetta recipes call for, unless you want soggy pieces of bread that flop like second-class pizza slices.
One of the beautiful things about a bunch of cherry tomatoes picked when they’re almost ripe is that they’ll still ripen given a friendly cool place to slow down the ripening process, as you can see in this article on our website. You can use Roma tomatoes as well at a pinch.
For a classic tomato and basil bruschetta the tomatoes need to be chopped finely. I like to use a good sharp paring knife. The pieces need to be around 7-8mm squared. The reason being that the smaller the pieces the more coverage on each slice of toasted baguette or a long bread stick. Place your chopped tomatoes into a non-reactive container like a ceramic bowl while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Next, slice your baguette. I like slices that are around 12mm thick, cut on an angle so that the slices of baguette are oblong rather than round. This gives you more surface area for your tomato and basil mix and makes them easier to pick up, easier to plate, and easier on the eye than a round.
Now let’s talk about that baguette. In my friend John’s Italian restaurant, we would bake enough baguettes so that once sliced there was enough for 80 customers finishing off their pastas or mussels in tomatoes to have enough slices to mop up their sauce. Some nights only half of the bread was used and the leftovers would make the next day’s bruschetta.
Note that these were not ‘leftovers’ sent back from a table. And nor did those end up in a bin. I’m pretty sure that was the bread the dishwasher used for making the cheese on toast after work.
Now one of the brilliant things about using day-old bread which is slightly dry is that it can become a base for other ingredients to rest on. This makes the baguette slice a perfect aperitivo ‘plate’, which is the same thinking behind tapas and pintxo snacks in Spain.
I don’t like to toast the baguette pieces in a toaster as they become too dry. Rather, I like to lay out a layer of slices and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and put them in a low oven or on a griddle pan on the stove.
Some of the tomato and basil bruschetta recipes I read mixed crushed or sliced garlic cloves with the sliced tomatoes. If you’re Italian and going to dinner afterwards and perhaps hoping for an amorous evening, stinking like an extra on a low budget Bela Lugosi movie is a non-starter.
Once the baguette slices are slightly browned, but still a little soft to the touch, take them off the heat. Now get a peeled garlic clove that’s chopped in half lengthways and gently rub it on the surface of the serving side of the baguette. Then brush the slice again with a little olive oil.
Here’s a little diversion that further explains Italy’s relationship with garlic. It’s never cast in a leading role. You want to make tomato sauce for pasta? You add a couple of half pieces of a clove of garlic to olive oil over low heat. When bubbles start to form around the garlic, remove the garlic. As we were told by a southern Italian chef we met years ago, who was cooking in a palace for some gentlemen who weren’t all that forthcoming about their line of ‘business’, Italians love the infusion of garlic in their dishes. Not stinking of it afterwards. I wasn’t about to argue.
To the tomatoes, add enough extra virgin olive oil to coat the pieces of tomato but not enough to form a puddle. Grind fresh salt and pepper into the bowl. Tear up your basil, keeping a little extra for the final dressing, and throw the basil into the bowl and combine it all thoroughly.
Taste for seasoning – so important – and add more salt or pepper as necessary, then spoon your tomato and basil onto your baguette slices.
Remember, bruschetta is a little snack to wake up the appetite before dinner. You don’t want your palate ruined with raw garlic, onions and balsamic vinegar with your first bite. Sure you don’t have to make a traditional tomato and basil bruschetta every time and you can get creative. But try this and let me know if needs to be messed with.
Easy, right? Now you know how to make a classic tomato and basil bruschetta you’ll probably never need to look at this recipe again. And the growing no recipe trend is something I’ve also been musing over recently. Coming up next.
Classic Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Recipe
- 80 g cherry tomatoes chopped finely
- 1 garlic clove cut in half
- 6-8 leaves of fresh basil finely chopped
- 20 ml extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 loaf baguette
- Slice the baguette on a 45˚ angle. I like the thickness of the slices to be 12mm thick.
- Brush a little extra virgin olive oil on both sides of the slices and toast. I like to use a griddle pan on the stove.
- While the slices are toasting, quarter the tomatoes and chop them into small pieces.
- You can tear or cut the basil into strips. Save the little leaves for garnish.
- Place the tomatoes in a bowl, add most of the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be too shy with the salt as it really brings out the tomato flavour. Mix and add the rest of the olive oil as necessary
- When your toasted baguette pieces are ready, rub the garlic slice gently on the surface of the ‘top’ of the toast and brush with a little more olive oil.
- I add the tomato mix to the pieces on the plates that I’m serving on as some pieces of tomato will spill off. Using a teaspoon, spoon on the mix of tomatoes.
- You can drizzle with a little more olive oil and garnish with small basil leaves.
Have you made this classic tomato and basil bruschetta recipe? Are you a fan of the traditional Italian aperitivo snack or do you like to get creative with your bruschetta?