In warmer weather, it’s the perfect time to serve Italian bruschetta as an appetizer. The tart, rich taste of ripe tomatoes against the crusty bread and olive oil is perfection, but how do you get your bruschetta just right?
Bruschetta is rustic bread rubbed with garlic then grilled with olive oil and topped with chopped tomato and basil. This simple dish is an Italian antipasto staple but can be part of a light lunch. Fresh, ripe tomatoes with the seeds removed are the base of the bruschetta topping.
It’s a deceptively simple dish – tomatoes on grilled bread – but the taste sensation of a good bruschetta comes from using the best ingredients and preparing them correctly.
I love making these simple snacks, and I’ve found the best combination of ingredients. I’ll walk you through preparing these perfect antipasti focusing on what type of tomatoes are the best and how to avoid soggy bread.
What Is Bruschetta Topping Made Of?
The most common bruschetta topping is made of fresh chopped tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil leaves, garlic, and salt. Other variations add other ingredients such as mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and onion.
The most basic and traditional Bruschetta (broo-skeh-tah) is using an Italian country bread known as Pagnotta brushed with olive oil, rubbed with garlic, grilled, sprinkled with salt, and served.
This bruschetta could be eaten plain or served with toppings like fresh tomatoes, salami, and meat pastes. Most commonly, it’s served topped with fresh tomato, basil, and garlic (what about fresh tomatoes vs canned?).
I think keeping it simple to just some quality tomatoes is best. We’ll be talking about this particular topping, as it’s the perfect accompaniment to the crusty, olive-oil-infused grilled bread.
The worst way to serve a classic tomato bruschetta is to make your topping too watery or your bread too soft. That way, you end up with sad, soggy bruschetta that nobody wants to eat.
To avoid this happening, you’ll want to make sure you follow our tomato preparation guidelines and toast your bread until it’s very crispy.
What Tomatoes Are Best For Bruschetta?
The most fresh, ripe, and aromatic tomatoes are best for bruschetta. Plum, cherry, or beefsteak tomatoes are good choices. Tomatoes bought “on the vine” or homegrown are usually the most flavorful.
Heirloom tomatoes are varieties that have superior qualities as they haven’t been cross-pollinated by farmers to achieve better commercial yields (and sacrificing flavor).
If you have access to heirloom varieties such as Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Brandywine, or other varieties that taste best fresh and eaten raw, definitely use these! The small sweet cherry and grape tomatoes also make great bruschetta toppings.
Heirloom tomatoes are often different colors. You can brighten up the traditional red tomato bruschetta topping by adding in some small sweet yellow cherry varieties like Yellow Pear or Sungolds. See what tomatoes are best for other recipes like salads and salsa.
Slicing the tomatoes in half and scooping out the watery seeds stops the topping from making the crusty bread soggy. I suggest salting your chopped tomatoes well to taste, as the salt really brings out the tomato flavor.
The tomato topping is usually made with olive oil, garlic, and salt.
How Do You Cut Tomatoes for Bruschetta?
Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the watery seeds. Dice your halved tomatoes by slicing them first one way about 1/2 inch wide slices. Then, cut them crosswise, with each piece about 1/2 inch wide so you have even chunks.
This technique ensures evenly sized diced tomatoes. You don’t want to slice the tomatoes too small as they still need some texture. If they are extra-large tomatoes you might want to remove the core.
Removing the insides stops the tomatoes from being too watery. If they gain too much liquid after dicing, then you can remove them from the bowl with a slotted spoon.
If you don’t like the skins then you can take them off by blanching the tomatoes, but I don’t think it’s necessary and takes extra time.
To blanch them, make a cross incision at the bottom of the tomatoes, then plunge them in boiling water for about 15-20 seconds to loosen the skin. Put the tomatoes in a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further, and when they have cooled down, you will find that you can easily pull the skins off your tomatoes.
Do You Remove Seeds from Tomatoes When Making Bruschetta?
It’s best to remove the seeds from your tomatoes so the topping isn’t too watery. The seeds are easy to scoop out with a spoon or finger when the tomatoes are cut in half.
It’s not strictly necessary but I like to remove the seeds when preparing bruschetta topping because they tend to make the tomato mix too watery. You want your final topping to be quite firm and not too runny, as this will soak into your bread and leave it soggy and pink. Learn more from my post on peeling and deseeding tomatoes.
Best Bread for Bruschetta
Traditionally, bruschetta was made from sourdough bread known as pagnotta. This bread can be hard to find outside of Italy, so two good substitutes are a crusty French baguette or ciabatta cut into slices, or a rustic country loaf.
Whatever bread you decide you want to use, you’ll want one that is crusty and firm. Italian bread that uses olive oil (such as ciabatta, focaccia) or excellent rustic sourdough bread will be perfect for slices of bread for your fresh tomato topping.
Ciabatta remains a top choice due to its chewy texture that crisps up well in an oven and the wide airy holes that allow the flavors to soak in.
If you’re using an olive-oil-rich bread like focaccia, go easy on the brushed olive oil to avoid making the bread taste too oily.
If you enjoy baking, try making your own sourdough loaf similar to a pagnotta.
Bruschetta is an excellent way of using up day-old bread, so if you have a loaf that needs to be eaten soon, try a light lunch of bruschetta.
How Do I Prevent My Bruschetta from Getting Soggy?
Two things will make your bruschetta soggy and unappealing: having a tomato mix that is too watery and liquid and not crisping your bread enough.
Avoid the first by ensuring you properly deseed your tomatoes to remove the watery center. Use a slotted spoon to pick up the diced mixture from the bowl and leave any liquid behind.
The second has a simple solution – grill or bake your oiled bread slices at a high heat so that the pieces are very crisp. Make sure you use some high-quality bread too.
Bruschetta is best served as soon as the topping is placed on the bread; leaving the food to stand for hours will result in soggy bread eventually as it soaks up the toppings. Top the bread just before you serve it to avoid soggy bruschetta.
What Goes Best with Bruschetta?
Although bruschetta is often served on its own as a snack, you can turn it into part of a light meal by serving it with a green salad and bowls of olives, cured meat, fruit, and cheese platters alongside.
Since bruschetta is traditionally an antipasto (basically, the hors d’oeuvres that come before a meal), pair it with various other finger foods and enjoy a spread of different Mediterranean flavors.
Add some vegetable dishes such as green beans served with blue cheese or pan-fried Brussel sprouts grilled with toasted pistachios and pomegranate seeds.
If you have a harvest of ripe tomatoes and some delicious crusty bread that is no longer fresh, bruschetta is a great way to make a delicious savory snack from humble ingredients. By preparing your tomatoes properly to avoid a soggy topping and crisping your olive-oil brushed ciabatta or baguette under high heat, you will create a mouth-wateringly delicious bruschetta and avoid the soggy, limp mess of a lousy bruschetta.
Have any questions? Ask me in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.
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