At its most pared down, bruschetta—a term that comes from the Roman verb bruscare, or”to roast over coals”—is simply grilled bread rubbed with garlic, then topped with olive oil and salt. (According to the Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan, the dish likely originated in Rome, when olive growers showed off their fresh-pressed oil by drizzling it on slices of toasted bread.) And while other toppings can be used, bruschetta’s most popular iteration in America is the version that’s topped with tomatoes and basil.
At its best, this classic antipasto offers a timeless combination of clean and fresh summer flavors. But at its worst, it can be flavorless, with mealy tomatoes and soggy bread—hardly inspiring. Next time you want to make tomato bruschetta at home, here’s how to guarantee your dish really shines.
Take the extra effort to peel and seed large tomatoes…
If you’re using beefsteak or medium to large heirloom tomatoes, take the extra time to peel and seed tomatoes before dicing them. Not only can thick tomato skins and bitter seeds add a less-than-desirable flavor and texture to your topping, but seeds add extra water, which can make your toasts runny and even soggy.
…But cherry tomatoes are pretty great, too.
Varieties like Sungolds, Sweet 100s, Black Cherries and Yellow Pears are another excellent option. Not only are they easier to prepare—no need to seed or peel, just simply cut them in half—but they add extra sweetness, too.
The right kind of bread is key…
Bruschetta is often made with a large and rustic Italian loaf—a round of bread with a coarse enough crumb to absorb a generous drizzling of olive oil. But any bread that isn’t too small in circumference or fine-textured works well; our favorite is a sourdough or classic pain au levain, which adds a tinge of tartness.
…and it has to be sliced just right.
Slice your bread too thin, and you’ll wind up as a crispy toast point, something more along the lines of a crostini (which are smaller, thinner slices of bread piled with various toppings). Slice your bread too thick, and your ratio of fresh produce to grain will be off. For that perfectly-crispy crust and soft interior, we like to aim for about half an inch thickness.
Marinate the topping for 10 minutes.
Help the flavors of your tomato topping to meld by mixing your chopped tomatoes, olive oil, basil and seasoning, then allowing the entire mixture to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
Skip the oven in favor of the grill.
If you’re making bruschetta during peak tomato season, then chances are, it’s sweltering. This ought to be reason enough to avoid turning on the oven, but as an added benefit, grilling your bruschetta over an open fire adds a hint of smokiness, too.
Find more tips and recipes in our tomato guide, and get all of our pointers for selecting, preparing and cooking with tomatoes.