Classic Tuscan Bruschetta – Fiesta Friday #67

Morning Fiesta Friday party-goers! I am a day late to the fiesta because I was sick yesterday (note to self, start scheduling posts) and consequently I don’t have any culinary masterpieces to bring. However, I do have some bruschetta – essentially a bit of toasted bread with a topping. Hardly gourmet, yet done well, simply one of life’s greatest food pleasures in my humble opinion (and you can probably join most Italians to that cause as well).

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Thank you everyone so much for having me as co-host last week. I absolutely loved reading all your recipes (I confess, I don’t normally read all of them, just not enough time in the day) and have already made one – Justine’s brownies, which were delicious, thank you! – and pinned lots of others to my own Pinterest boards (I’d love you to follow me, but a word of warning, it’s heavy on the house inspo at the moment). I am really excited about the group board though – it came to me in a flash of inspiration on a dog walk that we should have one and already it’s looking great! And it might even bring some new faces to the party. Thanks Angie for making it happen. And thank you Angie generally – I had no idea until I co-hosted how much work she does and I am completely in awe of how she manages, even with co-hosts! We are so grateful Angie. This week it is the turn of Caroline @Caroline’s Cooking and Jess @Cooking Is My Sport to co-host – thanks to both of you too!

Anyway, on with the food.

Before we start, just a little note on pronounciation. Before I learnt Italian, I’d have sworn blind that the correct way to say it was broo-schett-a, it felt authentically Italian to me, and I’d heard so many people pronounce it that way. But one of the first things I learned in Italian class (when we all went round mispronouncing all the Italian words we ‘knew’), was that I’d been saying it very wrong all those years. It is actually bru-skett-a. The ‘sch’ is pronounced with a hard ‘k’ in Italian. So now you know, and I have that off my chest.

So, bruschetta is a simple delight, but such a simple recipe is apparently harder than you might think to pull off. I have stopped ordering it in ‘Italian’ restaurants in the UK almost (unless you walk in and can tell instantly the proprietors are first generation italians). You get a spongy slice of bread, warmed rather than toasted, loaded with tomato, basil, huge chunks of mozzarella, and hardly any flavour. I’m afraid some of the guilt for this lies with the tomato, which simply does not seem to grow into such a delicious beast in England as in Tuscany, but who can blame it with our lack of sun? But much of the guilt lies with the chefs for overcomplicating the dish, and not properly respecting the ingredients. Often you will see travesties like pear and gorgonzola bruschetta, or chorizo and cheddar. Whilst worthy flavour combinations, they have no place on a dish which started out as a snack for farmers out in the fields.  Can you tell yet I get quite upset about messing with Italian food? I used to be quite amused by locals’ insistence that their way was the best way, and only traditional ingredients should be used, but since leaving and trying so much awful food that has strayed from these traditional ways, I’ve come to agree with them and find myself thinking practically as an Italian about the importance of food integrity!  I think three years in Florence have turned me native.

My first experience of making bruschetta was a couple of weeks into my Italian adventure, near Siena with a wonderful family whose farm we had visited to help with the olive harvest. We spent the day raking the trees for the fruit and crating them up to go and be pressed into lovely olive oil, and then at lunch were treated to a delicious lunch in the garden – a huge wooden table groaning with fantastic local food, all of it made by Giulia, her mother, or her grandmother.

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

The pasta in fact was handmade by me, under close instruction (in Italian, which I barely spoke at that point) from her Nonna. I felt like I had landed immediately into the Italian dream!

And then I tried the bruschetta. The bread was sliced and placed onto a huge grill in the garden, and then, hot and crunchy, pulled off, rubbed with a clove of garlic, drizzled with oil, sprinkled with salt and piled high on a plate. Technically, with no toppings, this is fettunta, not bruschetta, but either way, it was one of the most fragrant things I had ever eaten – the early-pressed olive oil had a heady aroma and combined with the sharp garlic flavour, and the smokiness of the bread grilled over coals – it was perfection. It probably helped that we had done several hours of hard labour and I’d spent the past hour in the kitchen being tortured by all the incredible food smells, but I still consider that one of my favourite food experiences ever.

Her Dad told me that it was a very traditional thing for farmers to eat in Tuscany. In the old days they would take a loaf of bread into the fields, and in the evenings, slice off a chunk and toast it over their fire. They would pour olive oil from a little bottle they carried, and, because the bread there is famously un-salted (blame it on Pisa blockading salt in 1100 apparently!) they would finish it with some salt on top. The birth of fettunta. In the south of Italy, farmers would rub their tomatoes on the bread as well, and the bruschetta was born. ‘Bruscare’ means to grill, hence the name. The addition of tomatoes was enthusiastically taken up in much of the rest of Italy (though some Tuscans firmly believe that only fettunta is authentic in their region), and now the best bruschetta is just that – tomatoes, olive oil, bread, garlic and salt. No need for onions, no need for basil (though I do appreciate basil is a beautiful ingredient, and add it to everything I possibly can, for this dish, leaving it out lets the other ingredients be the star of the show).  Just simple, delicious.

Enough talking then, and on with the cooking!

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta

  • Servings: as many as you like!
  • Time: 10mins (plus marinating time)
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International
Ingredients:
  • Sourdough bread (the best equivalent to Tuscan bread, but ciabatta can also be used), sliced into 1-2cm thick slices, 2 slices per person
  • Good quality tomatoes (1 per slice of bread)
  • Olive oil (preferably young olive oil (olio nuovo))
  • Bulb of garlic
  • Salt
Method:
  1. Several hours before you want to eat the bruschetta, dice the tomatoes and strain them of their juice before putting them in a bowl. Add a very generous sprinkling of salt. Taste it – it should be just slightly too salty at this stage, but don’t worry, it will end up perfect. Add a generous slug of olive oil, and mix. Cover and leave in the fridge.
  2. When you are ready to eat the bruschetta, peel your garlic so you have cloves ready to rub on your toasted bread. Then strain your tomatoes once more.
  3. Then, over a charcoal grill (or under the grill in your oven), grill the bread lightly so the edges are crispy but the inside is still soft.
  4. As soon as they come off the grill, take a clove of garlic and rub it all over the surface of the bread.
  5. Pile each slice of bread high with tomatoes, then drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Bruschetta make the perfect appetizer before a meal, especially if you’re making something Italian, or they also make fabulous party food, and go very beautifully with a glass of crisp white wine, or equally a red. I hope that you will consider making them for your next get-together, though perhaps  not quite like this:

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

This was to feed 100 people, and this was only the first round of toasting!

And just because I have loved this trip down memory lane so much, a few more photos from that beautiful day in Tuscany!

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

 

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

Classic Tuscan Bruschetta | Anna International

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Classic Tuscan Bruschetta – Fiesta Friday #67

    1. I am so envious of your son – living and studying in Tuscany was so wonderful, I wish I could do it all again! Will he be in Florence? I’ve written a post with some tips on places to eat around the city, and I’m planning one shortly about places to see in and around Tuscany soon that he might be interested in.

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  1. I agree good quality tomatoes make such a difference for bruschetta, and good bread as well. I love your photos – if only we could toast on an open fire here, I’m sure that must add a lovely flavor. Thanks for bringing to Fiesta Friday and for all your work last week. And hope you;re feeling better!

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    1. Thanks Caroline, I am feeling better, which is just as well, as we had a lot of DIY work to do over the weekend, pulling out wardrobes and plastering and all manner of things!
      My next task is to master making my own ciabatta or sourdough so I can make the entire thing from scratch myself – I am still a little scared of this though!

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  2. wow that is like catering size bruschetta, thats industrial or professional or both but it looks amazing! I am hungry now could do with some of that. So glad you made the brownies, though they were smoochingly soft hopefully tasty all the same, it takes a bit of experimenting. Glad youre better too! I think I am following you on Pinterset x

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    1. It was an amazing party – we hired a huge house in the hills near Arezzo, and invited all our friends. In the end we were about 100 people, and I and a couple of friends made 16 lasagnes, I roasted over 200 potatoes, we made vats of tuscan bean soup the size of baths, it was a proper catering operation and it was absolutely brilliant fun! After that we had bistecca and sausages cooked in the same way over the fire, which Billy loved because if he was careful he could sneak up and nab a sausage or two before anyone stopped him!! He had a great party too, except for when the guy arrived on the horse. He doesn’t much like horses! x

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      1. I have a lot of different kinds of bread – from the good ole fashioned banana bread to a sourdough boule (starter came from Selma), overnight crusty baguettes (just bought a baguette baker), breads in bread machines, crock pots – you name it 🙂

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