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Beautiful Bruschetta

Did you know that bruschetta is one of the most widely mispronounced Italian dishes in the United States? To order it correctly in an authentic restaurant, say "broo-SKET-tah" and you'll probably make your server smile in appreciation. But even more important than knowing how to say it is knowing just how many creative ways you can construct it at home.

What Is Bruschetta?

Most Americans know it as an appetizer of sliced Italian bread topped with chopped tomatoes and garlic. While that is just one of many ways it can be served, bruschetta originated even more simply: as toasted or grilled bread rubbed with a cut clove of garlic, dribbled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.
You can certainly find the garden tomato-and-garlic variety on menus across Italy. But by breaking out of the norm you can turn an ordinary appetizer into a unique, light lunch or delicious, distinctive dinner.

Making the Best Bruschetta

Like many Italian dishes, bruschetta contains only a few ingredients, so it's important to use the freshest that you can find. If you are craving the tried-and-true tomato type, make it when both tomatoes and basil are at their peak during the summer. Any one of Bertolli's® premium olive oils will taste delicious drizzled on top.
While bruschetta will benefit from the best pane (bread) you can buy or make, this dish is a great way to use the remnants of a day-old loaf…especially if your toppings are wet, because they will soak tastily into the crumbs. If you're cooking with meat, cheeses, or vegetables with less water, you can certainly opt for bread that is softer, since it's less likely to become soggy. (But there is something to be said for bruschetta's crunch...)

Crowd-Pleasing Combinations

Since most people love their bread, bruschetta is almost always a welcome treat. This versatile dish is satisfying when served alone as a snack, or as an entree paired with a salad or an accompaniment to soup.
There is no right or wrong way to top bruschetta, and it can usually be made just by eyeballing the amount of ingredients you prepare compared with how many slices of bread you are toasting. Its ease is half the fun. Evaluate what is in your pantry or fridge and follow these suggestions:
Minimalist Bruschetta: In a sauté pan, on your grill, in your oven or even on your gas burner turned as low as you can get it, heat inch-thick slices of Italian bread until lightly browned or charred (but not burned). Cut a peeled garlic clove in half, rub directly on the bread and top with olive oil, salt and pepper. This basic bruschetta is delicious served with tomato soup or as an addition to a plate of leafy salad.
Tomato Bruschetta: Combine chopped tomatoes in a bowl with a smashed clove or two of garlic, a small handful of basil or parsley and a dash of Bertolli® Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Add finely chopped sweet onions or scallions for some punch and season to taste. Spoon over bread prepped as described above and serve.
Tomato-less Vegetarian Bruschetta: Follow the instructions for Tomato Bruschetta but replace tomatoes with a combination of finely diced zucchini, summer squash, roasted eggplant and roasted or raw fennel. Add a few capers to the bowl for zing, combine and season to taste. Top as directed above.
Prosciutto Bruschetta: Follow instructions for Tomato Bruschetta and top with a wafer-thin slice of prosciutto. No tomatoes? No problem. A few chopped capers, cucumbers or pickles pair well with meat.
Olive-Bar Bruschetta: Make use of your market's olive bar by keeping marinated Peppadew peppers, olive tapenade, pitted olives or small fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini) in your refrigerator for a quick do-it-yourself bruschetta bar. Pre-grill or toast bread then set out on the table with olive-bar toppings so your family can create their own masterpieces.
For even more bruschetta inspiration and fabulous recipes from the Bertolli® kitchen, click here.