It’s peak tomato season, which means it’s also bruschetta season! By bruschetta, I mean the Americanized version of authentic Italian bruschetta, featuring ripe red tomatoes, basil, and garlic on golden, toasted French bread.
That’s the only way I’ve known bruschetta to be. I like to finish my bruschetta with a light drizzle of thick balsamic vinegar, for flavor and beauty bonus points. It punctuates the end result with irresistible tanginess.
Total Time: 40 minutes Servings: 24 individual servings
Bruschetta is really simple to make with basic ingredients. The only tedious part is dicing the tomatoes, but it goes by quickly if you have good company or good music. Here’s what you’ll need:
2 lbs. ripe tomatoes – Any variety will do. Use the best tomatoes you can find in your Growing Dome.
½ tsp fine sea salt, plus more to taste
½ cup white onion (about ½ medium), finely chopped (You won’t find onion in every bruschetta recipe, but it adds a light crunch and additional flavor. With onion, you don’t have to overload your bruschetta topping with garlic to make it taste amazing.)
½ cup fresh basil (about ¾ ounce), chopped (Only fresh will do. You’ll want to use a big handful.)
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (Use fresh garlic, pressed in a garlic press or minced by hand.)
1 baguette French bread (Look for a slender loaf of crusty bread. Bake it until it’s so crisp, it shatters when you bite into it.)
4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
thick balsamic vinegar (see more info below under expert tips)
1. Preheat the oven (or a gas grill*) to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if desired. If your baking sheet is smaller than mine, you may need to make the toast in two batches.
2. Dice your tomatoes and transfer them to a medium mixing bowl, leaving the tomato seeds and juice behind on the cutting board. Stir the salt into the tomatoes, and add the onion, basil and garlic as they are ready. Stir to combine and set the mixture aside to marinate while you work on the bread.
3. Slice your baguette on the diagonal into pieces no wider than ½-inch (see photos). I can usually fit 20 to 24 slices on my large baking sheet; you might have some bread left over. Lightly brush both sides of each slice with olive oil (this will require about 2 to 3 tablespoons oil).
4. Place the slices in a single layer on your prepared baking sheet and bake them on the middle rack for 6 to 9 minutes, until they’re crisp and nicely golden on top. Transfer the toasts to a serving platter(s), if desired, and set aside.
5. When you’re ready to serve, carefully drain off the excess tomato juice that has accumulated in the bowl, using your hand as a stopgap. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir to combine, and season the mixture with additional salt, to taste (I usually add another ¼ to ½ teaspoon). If you don’t feel like your bruschetta is garlicky enough (I like mine lightly but not overwhelmingly garlicky), add another pressed clove of garlic.
6. Top each toast with tomato mixture, tipping your spoon against the bowl to release excess juice as necessary. Lightly drizzle a couple of tablespoons of thick balsamic vinegar on top, and sprinkle lightly with flaky salt if you have any. Bruschetta is best served promptly.
Here’s the deal: You don’t have to top your bruschetta with balsamic vinegar, but I really love the irresistible tang that good balsamic vinegar provides. For a beautiful drizzle, use high-quality, thick balsamic vinegar. I don’t recommend using run-of-the-mill, runny balsamic because it pours rather than drizzles. You could stir some runny balsamic into your tomato mixture. It will turn the tomatoes lightly brown but will make the flavor more uniform.
Or, make your own balsamic reduction with regular runny balsamic. Bring 1 cup (or more) to a boil in a small, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring often, until the vinegar is reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the reduction to cool, then transfer to an air-tight jar and store in the pantry.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE: You can make the tomato mixture up to 2 days in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator. The toasts are best made within a few hours of serving.
MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free bread, if you can find a good one. Or, serve the tomato mixture with gluten-free crackers on the side for scooping.
*HOW TO GRILL YOUR BREAD: Simply brush the slices with olive oil as directed and place them directly on the grill grates with tongs. Cover and let the bread toast for about 3 minutes. When the undersides are golden, with nice grill marks, carefully flip them with tongs and repeat on the other side. Transfer to a large serving platter and top them with the tomato-basil mixture and optional balsamic vinegar and/or flaky salt as directed.
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