It’s not really what you think it is…
In the states, when you hear the word ‘Bruschetta’, you think about toasted Italian bread with a tomato spread. But to think that way would be like thinking the word ‘Sandwich’ means two pieces of bread with ham, cheese and mayo. It’s actually a generic term, and there are all kinds of Bruschetta.
Let’s learn how to say it…
Before I go any further, let’s get rid of a pet peeve of mine. We’ll learn how to pronounce it. Say BROO-SKET-TA. That’s right. It is not BRAH-SHEDA. Now say it again… BROO-SKET-TA. If you can roll that R a little, you are certainly doing well!
What exactly is it then?
Bruschetta is quite simply toast. The word comes from the Italian verb ‘brusciare’, meaning ‘to burn’… or ‘to toast’, if you will. Bruschetta is made by placing a piece of bread on a grill and turning it every few seconds until it is toasted. Of course, doing it with Italian bread makes it so much more than what we think of as toast! At that point, it is Bruschetta. What you put on top of it from that point forward is completely up to you.
A little Bruschetta History
They say it originates in our area — Central Italy. But in all honesty, it is just that name that originates there. Other areas of Italy have had it for ages, just with different names. After all, how does one figure out where toast was invented? However, the name Bruschetta stuck, and became accepted world-wide.
Originally Bruschetta was simply bread toasted over hot coals, then sprinkled with some olive oil and garlic (or salt). It was something you would have while having an Italian BBQ, or when tasting the new oil in the winter. This is how what we call ‘Garlic Bread’ originated. Over time, Bruschetta became an appetizer offered in restaurants, and as such, it expanded to be a ‘carrier’ of other appetizers.
The tomato/onion mixture we know of is one of these. Other popular ones are olive spread, porcini mushrooms, truffles, and much more. but if you are in Italy, and you ask simply for ‘Bruschetta’, you will get toasted Italian bread with oil and garlic to rubbed on it. If you were to ask for ‘Bruschette’ — Note the ‘e’ instead of ‘a’ at the end that makes it plural, you would most likely get a platter of several varieties of Bruschetta. What we think of as Bruschetta would be ‘Bruschetta con pomodoro’, or ‘Bruschetta with tomatoes’. This fact may not hold true in touristy restaurants, since they have learned what the tourists expect.
Bruschetta is a Comfort Food
When I think of Bruschetta, I think of friends and family. It is about going down to the farmhouse on a cold, rainy night with Paola and friends. We would bring a bunch of bread, sausage and pancetta. We would start a fire in the old fireplace and grill the sausage and pancetta while making Bruschetta late into the night, laughing and eating. I would argue that just about any Italian you run into will have similar stories. Bruschetta is something to have with friends.
A Bruschetta Recipe:
The recipe below is a simple one that we do in our cooking classes for one of the appetizers. This is one of the more popular appetizers we do in our classes.
Bruschetta with Sausage and Stracchino (farmer cheese)
- 4 slices of Italian bread, cut in half
- 1 mild sausage (No fennel)
- 1 package of farmer cheese (Best if you can find stracchino cheese)
Preheat oven to 400 F (275 C).
Peel the sausage and place in a bowl with 1/2 of the cheese. Blend together until smooth. Spread the mixture on the bread and place in the oven set to bake at). Watch the bruschetta carefully until golden brown. Serve warm.