Bruschetta (Broo-SKET-ah), which are slices of toasted, rustic bread topped with simple ingredients, started out as a simple peasant snack for field workers, but today is an appetizer found in most Italian restaurants.
The most famous version of bruschetta is topped with chopped tomatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and either fresh basil or a sprinkle of oregano. However, any crostini topped with meats, cheeses, beans, or other seasonal vegetables and herbs make endless possibilities that can satisfy all palates.
My trio of bruschetta appetizers utilizes the freshest ingredients found at the local farmers’ market. The colors and flavors can be combined to create many memorable toppings. When I am in Rome, I always go to Campo di Fiori to do my daily shopping for vegetables.
I have made friends there and also in the United States at my local farmers’ market, and they can always tell me what is the freshest, or about some unique herb that can spark my imagination on how to incorporate it into a new recipe.
My first bruschetta is the most famous, with fresh tomato, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and oregano. It’s a crowd-pleaser that never lets you down. The second is topped with thinly sliced Prosciutto de Parma, fontina cheese and melon, which is a play on sweet and savory. The final one is a combination of pickled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and Gorgonzola cheese, which has a slightly spicy kick from Southern Italy. This one is special because I pickle the eggplant and jar the sun-dried tomatoes with oil to release all of their delicious flavors.
With just a few ingredients, these starters will kickstart your palate and will be the beginning of a wonderful Italian dinner.
Suggested Pairing: Mazzoni Pinot Grigio
1 large baguette, or rustic Italian bread, sliced to 1/2-inch thick
1/4 pound of Prosciutto di Parma, thinly sliced
1 package small cherry tomatoes
1 small cantaloupe melon
1 package of micro greens
8 oz. fontina cheese, thinly sliced
8 oz. soft gorgonzola cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
4 oz pickled eggplant
4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters and place in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Add the finely chopped basil, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.
2. Cut the cantaloupe in half and discard the seeds. Use a melon-baller to make as many balls as needed.
3. Wrap each ball with a strip of prosciutto, set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator.
4. Slice the fontina set on a plate cover and transfer to the refrigerator.
5. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and pickled eggplant into very small pieces, crumble the gorgonzola cheese and mix all together. Set on a plate and transfer to the refrigerator.
6. Slice a baguette on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Grill, or bake in the oven until they are slightly crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and rub with a garlic clove that has been cut in half.
7. Remove all the ingredients from the refrigerator and assemble the bruschetta right before you serve them.
Influenced by memories in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, Italian-born Francesco Romano is the man behind the food blog, Coco de Mama. He shares recipes and culinary knowledge with Mazzoni fans each month.
Like the French word crouton, the Italian crostino comes from the Latin root crusta, the same word that gives us crust in English.
And like the croutons that we throw in our salads here in the U.S., the Tuscan crostino is one of those classic Italian methods for getting “extra mileage” out of stale bread.
The difference in Tuscany is that the bread there is made without the addition of salt. As a result, it is the toppings for the Tuscans’ crostini that gives them their flavor: sautéed and olive oil-cured mushrooms; creamy pâtè; and traditional Italian tomato sauce.
In his Divine Comedy, Dante’s grandfather Cacciaguida predicts Dante’s exile from the Tuscan city state of Florence and tells him:
And thou shalt taste how salty is the bread of other men…