Bite into rustic morsels full of big flavours – from the classic to the inventive.

At its best, bruschetta is one of most transporting, flavourful, simplest and versatile dishes ever invented. Alas, not all bruschetta (pronounced bru-sketta) is created equal. When it comes crisp, textured, slightly charred at the edges, lightly garlicked and sea salted – and ideally served up on a rustic board or earthenware platter – it can be sheer perfection. We really mean it when we say we can think of very few things more delicious than the classic tomato recipe if it’s done right. The soggy, unseasoned stuff you typically get in chain Italian restaurants? Not so much. Especially since it is actually incredibly straightforward to make bruschetta hit all the high (by which we mean sweet, juicy and salty) notes.

These sublime little toasts are the ideal thing to knock up quickly as an accompaniment for a glass of wine at apertivo hour. On smaller toasts, bruschette can make excellent canapes. And we’ll greedily hoover up several in succession as whole meals in themselves, knocked up from scratch in a matter of minutes when we come home starving. Eaten outside in summer, bruschetta is redolent of languid days on the Med. Taken indoors as the wind whips up and the rain weaves its way down your windowpanes, it has all the carby hallmarks of classic cosy comfort food.

Bruschetta is then, in short, one of the handiest and tastiest dishes in our culinary arsenal. And, best of all, there are so many options beyond the – albeit perfect – traditional tomato and basil: we present eight of our favourites.

Classic Tomato Bruschetta


Great Italian Chefs


As with all things, you must master the basics before you go off piste. And where better to school yourself in the art of bruschetta making – a classic of the la cucina povera style so associated with delicious Italian food – than with the Great Italian Chefs? The recipe advises going heavy on salt and draining the diced tomatoes; it is important too to choose the right kind of bread (rustic or Pugliese works perfectly). We like the etymology here; the recipe writer Amy Gulick tells us: ‘In Italian, the word for something toasted is abbrustolito or bruscato, the latter from the verb bruscare, synonymous with bruciare (‘to burn’) but also meaning to brush with a brusca – a large brush with coarse bristles, similar to the type used to brush horses. Since bruschetta is both ‘burnt’ and ‘brushed’, possibly the name derives from both these verbs.’

Pan Fried Figs, Serrano Ham, Cream Cheese And Walnuts On Toast


Delicious


Spanish chef Omar Allibhoy’s take on bruschetta is an exercise in perfect, mouth-watering balance. The salt of the ham is offset by the sweetness of the figs; the softness of the cream cheese by the crunch of the walnut. We could eat these for days. Perfect as tapas, or just on their own on an autumn night washed down with a glass of good Rioja.

The River Café’s Bruschetta With Mozzarella And Spinach


Chatelaine


The River Café’s Ruth Rogers famously takes regular research trips to Italy to keep her ideas for the legendary eaterie’s menu fresh, authentic and inventive. As such, its repertoire of bruschette is one of the best in the UK. We love this one, which is reminiscent of Spanish pan con tomate (in which the tomato is rubbed into the bread rather than piled on top) and served up with spinach and mozzarella and a drizzle of good quality olive oil. A great one for dinner parties; just pile a platter high with the bruschette and then pass the spinach and mozzarella around. Do note, griddling the bread is the making of this dish.


Mushroom Sourdough Bruschetta


Jamie Oliver


After growing up in his parent’s pub, Jamie Oliver was later schooled at the River Café by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. Latterly, he has continued his education in Italian cuisine with the legendary Gennaro Contaldo. To say, then, that he’s an Italophile when it comes to food is something of an understatement. We love this mushroom recipe, which, with its pimped up addition of fresh Hollandaise, makes the perfect autumnal comfort food, proving that bruschetta is not just for summer.

Polpo’s Broad Bean, Mint and Ricotta Bruschetta


Foodism


Polpo’s founder Russell Norman lives between Kent and Venice (it’s a hard job but someone has to do it, yada yada yada). Italian cuisine is famously regional and he is about as expert as an outsider can become in peculiarly Venetian dishes – a fact that the whole Polpo operation is predicated on. This broad bean, mint and ricotta number is light, zingy and a pure delight – quick, serve it up on every Indian summer day we have left of the year.

Lemon, Ricotta, Basil and Honey Bruschetta


Donna Hay


Another bruschetta, another dollop of ricotta. This time, however, it is balanced by a good drizzling of honey and some lemon zest – all of which promises a major flavour punch. It doesn’t say so in the recipe, but we’d be tempted to scatter on a few dried chilli flakes too for a subtle bit of heat.

Baby Artichoke Bruschetta


Jamie Oliver


Back to Jamie for more proof that to pull off Italian recipes with aplomb, simplicity is everything. All you need here is great bread, some garlic, lemon and good quality artichokes, the latter of which always transport us to Italy, no matter where we are in the world. Buon appetito.

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Bruschetta


Barefoot Contessa


If we needed conclusive evidence that bruschetta works just as well in the cooler months as the hot ones, this recipe is it. It features, after all, butternut squash, which is the ultimate autumnal ingredient, along with ricotta, crushed pepper flakes and maple syrup. Warming, cosy and dreamy.

By Nancy Alsop
September 2020

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