Tomato Basil Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer, and something everyone should make when tomatoes are at their peak. This version is completely authentic with just tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and a little bit of salt and pepper to season the tomatoes. It’s served with crusty Italian bread, and that’s it!
Tomato Basil Bruschetta
I have had bruschetta a million different ways, and at countless restaurants across the country, but nothing beats the traditional tomato bruschetta I had in Italy years ago. I was actually very surprised to find out how simplistic it is – tomatoes, a little bit of salt and pepper, and possibly some garlic was all that was involved. The bread was served at room temperature, wasn’t toasted with olive oil, or even seasoned for that matter.
But it was DELICIOUS. The tomatoes were sweet, juicy, and soaked into the bread, making the somewhat tough exterior of the crusty bread, slightly moist and tender. It was so simple, but obviously, so memorable. It just goes to show, if you use quality ingredients at the peak of their season, you don’t need much to create a delicious dish.
My version today retains a lot of the same elements as the one I had so many years ago, but I added in a little bit of freshly chopped basil for extra flavor, and because it’s growing like wild in my backyard. Also different, crusty Italian bread is drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and lightly toasted. But you could skip that part if you’d like.
I like to make the bruschetta topping about 45 minutes before I need to serve it, just to let all the juices and flavors harmonize together.
How to make bruschetta at home
This is so simple, it’s criminal, but here we go:
- Toast your bread. This is kind of an optional step, but I prefer my bruschetta to have a little bit of a toasted texture, plus I need that extra dose of salt in each bite. All I do is brush each piece of bruschetta with a little bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pop into at 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes until it’s just SLIGHTLY toasted. You don’t want it to get too tough, because it will be too hard to eat.
- Chop the tomatoes. Use a very sharp knife to chop the tomatoes into an even dice. For bruschetta, you obviously only want to use the freshest of the fresh tomatoes. From your backyard or local farmer’s market is where I’d suggest getting them. Trust me, if you use sub par tomatoes, this will not be a good dish.
- Mix the bruschetta topping. Add tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper to a medium bowl. Toss until combined. Let the mixture sit for 30-45 minutes for serving. Season again just before serving.
- Serve the bruschetta! Because the tomatoes have a lot of juice, you obviously don’t want to prep these ahead of time. Serve the topping in a bowl, and then put it on a plate or platter and arrange the bruschetta toasts around it. Let your guest make their own.
Variations on Tomato Basil Bruschetta
Of course, for this to be a traditional Italian bruschetta recipe, you have to stick with what I’ve said, but here are some deviations from the classic.
- Nestle fresh mozzarella on top of the bruschetta first, then top with the tomato topping.
- Drizzle the tomatoes with balsamic glaze
- Spread toasted bread with pesto, then top with tomatoes
- Spread whipped ricotta on the toasted bread first, then top with tomatoes
- Add in chopped kalamata olives for a briny, salty addition
Best bread for bruschetta
So there are a lot of breads you could potentially use. Since this is in the Italian realm, I’d suggest a good-quality crusty Italian bread. You could also use sourdough, ciabatta, or any other sturdy bread. If you want a more crostini-like appetizer, serve with sliced baguette. I also like to slice the bread pretty thick – about 3/4 of an inch. Obviously you can make them smaller if it’s what you prefer, but do keep in mind the tomato juice will soak through the bread.
How do you pronounce bruschetta?
I remember being in Italy with my somewhat ignorant friend, who, while the table next to us ordered bruschetta by saying “broo-sketta,” proceeded to correct them on their pronunciation of bruschetta, certain it was pronounced “broo-shetta” as most people say it here in the US. She was immediately corrected by the waiter who informed her it is indeed, broo-sketta. So there you go, the correct Italian way to say it, is to put a hard k on it.
Can you make Tomato Basil Bruschetta in advance?
Yes! Make the topping up to a day in advance. You can also toast the bread a day in advance. Just pop them in the oven again for a few minutes to crisp it back up again. I would not recommend assembling everything ahead of time any further than about 10-15 minutes in advance. Because there is so much tomato juice, the bread could get soggy (a little soggy is good!) from the top to the bottom if it’s assembled any earlier.
What to serve with bruschetta
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Again, you can use whatever sturdy crusty you bread you love. Great options would be sourdough, ciabatta, or a baguette.
- If you can, test your tomatoes out before you buy them. They should be good enough to eat without any help.
- Don’t toast your bread too much! You want guests to be able to bite into it without ripping the roof of their mouth.
- 1/2 loaf crusty italian bread
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil, divided
- 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp chopped basil
- Mixing bowl
- sheet pan
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Use a sharp knife to cut bread into 3/4-inch slices. Cut in half so each piece is about 3-4 inches long. Using a pastry brush, brush bread with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. It doesn't need to be saturated in oil, just damp enough for the salt and pepper to ahere. Season with salt and pepper. Line up on baking sheet. Toast unitl LIGHTLY toasted, about 4-5 minutes. Cool completely.
- While the bread toasts, add tomatoes, garlic, salt, basil, and remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil to a small bowl. Mix to combine. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
- Serve toasted bread with bruschetta topping.