In Italy there are a number of versions of what is essentially toast. The more common ones are bruschetta and crostini. Bruschetta is the larger of the two and is made from a good artisanal boule or crusty loaf of bread, cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch slices. Jim Lahey’s no-knead recipe produces a perfect loaf of bread for bruschetta. The bread is frequently grilled over an open flame or with a tostapane, which allows you to toast the bread over the gas flame in the kitchen. The name comes from “bruscare” which mean to “roast over coals or a flame.” After the bread is grilled on both sides for a few minutes, it is rubbed with some fresh garlic, a pinch of salt is added and extra-virgin olive oil is drizzled on top. Bruschetta is generally served while it is still warm. The toast is golden, with a bit of char on the outside, but chewy in the middle.
Crostini which means “little toasts,” are about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and can be prepared in the same way. They are also frequently brushed with olive oil and toasted in the oven. A baguette cut on the diagonal or a ciabatta loaf will give you the ideal size. Unlike bruschetta, crostini are often allowed to cool and used more as a cracker to serve the various toppings. They can be kept in air tight containers for a few days.
Fettunta or Fett-Unta is found around Florence and is bruschetta, but with a bit more extra-virgin olive oil. The name comes from the celebration of the first olive oil of the season in late November. There is often a small fireplace in the pressing room. The grower is then able to toast some bread and sample the new olive oil as it emerges from the press.
At home, simple grilled bread is made in the same manner as bruschetta or toasted in the oven. It is rubbed with a garlic clove, the best olive oil is drizzled very generously on top, a pinch of sea salt and perhaps some pepper is added and you have fettunta or a “oiled slice.” At this point you can add your favorite toppings, or you can simply enjoy it as one of the best garlic breads available.
There are other names and sizes for toast in Italy as well. There are large crostini, which are called crostini and when they are bathed in olive like fettunta they are called crostini bagnati.
In any case, whatever the name or size, the toasts can be use as the base for an unlimited number of toppings. You can use cured meats, fresh, cooked or marinated vegetables, soft cheeses, tomatoes, fish, sautéed mushrooms, wilted kale and garlic, cannellini beans, or whatever you like. The bruschetta and crostini can be used as starters for a dinner, part of a tapas party, or they can be the entire dinner.
Well anyway, pick whatever size, shape, name, method of toasting and topping you like. However you make them, you will have crispy, golden pieces of toast with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and an unlimited array of savory or sweet toppings. Bruschetta, crostini, et al are extremely easy to make and quite irresistible.
Bruschetta/Fettunta: Master Recipe
Thick-crusty boule or similar good quality bread cut into 1/2 inch slices
Fresh garlic Extra-virgin olive
oil Sea salt and
freshly ground black pepper
Place the bread on a grill (charcoal, gas or electric) or a grill pan and toast each side for about 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat. The bread should be crispy with golden-brown grill marks, a slight charred crust and chewy in the center. Remove the toast and rub it with a clove of fresh garlic. (Fresh garlic can be quite strong, so it is a good idea to check the first piece and and adjust the garlic to your taste.)
Drizzle some of your best extra- virgin olive oil generously over the toasts and sprinkle them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you don’t have a grill, you can broil the bread until it is golden and crispy, about 1 minute per side. You can also just prepare it in your toaster.
At this point you have an extremely delicious version of garlic bread. You might serve it with some marinated chèvre and grapes, Moules au Beurre D’escargots, or you can add your favorite topping. I have added a few of mine below.
Crostini: Master Recipe
A baguette or cibatta bread
Fresh garlic Extra-virgin olive
oil Sea salt and freshly
ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400oF. Cut the baguette on a diagonal into thin slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Place the bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and brush both sides with the olive oil. Bake until the crostini are crisp and golden, about 7 to 10 minutes per side. but keep an eye on they as they can burn quickly.
Remove from the oven, brush lightly with a clove of fresh garlic, and add a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
You can also grill the crostini in the same manner as bruschetta, only the time should be reduced to just a few minutes. I like to grill crostini on a panini maker.
Just brush both sides of the bread with extra-virgin olive oil and grill them for several minutes. The panini maker produces crostini that are golden in color, crisp, with some nice grill marks.
The crostini can be used immediately with your favorite topping or cooled on a wire rack and stored in an airtight container for several days.
Bruschetta with Broccolini, Herbed Ricotta and Garlic
A crusty boule or other good quality artisanal bread
2 cups of fresh or purchased ricotta, at room temperature
2 bunches of broccolini, cleaned and ends trimmed
2 tablespoons each of chopped chives, basil, and flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
4 to 6 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced, quantity to taste
2 or 3 large whole cloves of peeled garlic to rub on the bruschetta
Zest from 1 lemon 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Red pepper flakes, a pinch
Extra-virgin olive oil
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a medium bowl, combine the fresh ricotta with 2 tablespoons each of chopped chives, basil, flat-leaf parsley, 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme, lemon zest, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste and about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Mix well, taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if necessary. You can mix in a bit of additional olive oil, if you prefer a creamer texture. You can also add additional lemon juice, again to your taste. Set aside until you are ready to serve the bruschetta. You can prepare the ricotta up to a day in advance. Just refrigerate until ready to use, and return to room temperature.
Steam or boil the broccolini for several minutes until the stems are crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and add to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the color. Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the broccolini with a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. Sauté the broccolini for several minutes. Then add the thinly sliced fresh garlic. Continue cooking the broccolini for several more minutes until it is wilted and the garlic slices start to turn slightly golden. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Set aside until ready to serve the bruschetta.
Cut the bread into 12 slices, about 1/2 inch thick and prepare the bruschetta according to master recipe for Bruchetta (see above).
Spread the herbed ricotta on the warm bruschetta, top with the broccolini (whole or chopped), a few golden slices of garlic and serve immediately. If the bruschetta sits for too long with the ricotta on top, it will become soggy. You can also add some prosciutto (San Daniele or Prosciutto de Parma, if available), or some shaved Parmagiano Reggiano, or both.
Bruschetta with Roasted Baby Beets, Blue Chèvre & Beet Leaf Pistou
A crusty boule or other good
quality artisanal loaf of bread
About 12 baby beets with green tops attached
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
2 additional whole cloves of garlic, peeled, to rub on the bruschetta
Several stems of fresh thyme
Blue chèvre, such as a Classic Blue Log from Westerfield Farm, or a mixed blue cheese such as a Spanish Valdeón, both are available from igourmet.com
Beet Leaf Pistou, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 400oF. Clean and scrub the baby beats thoroughly. Remove all but 1/2 inch of the green tops to use for the pistou. Place the beets on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add several whole cloves of garlic and some stems of fresh thyme. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, rub the beets in the oil and continue to roast them until they are tender and a small knife slides through the beets with ease, about 10 minutes.
Let the beets cool for a few minutes, then gently remove the skin. (The skin on baby beets is generally very thin and can be left on if you prefer.) Cut the baby beets in half, taste one and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Cut the bread into 12 slices about 1/2 inch thick and prepare the bruschetta according to the master recipe for Bruschetta (see above).
Spread some blue chèvre, such as a Classic Blue Log from Westerfield Farm or a mixed blue cheese such as a Spanish Valdeón on the warm bruschetta. You can also use a young or aged chèvre, Boursin, Robiola, herbed ricotta, burrata,or any other cheese that you like.
Add several of the roasted beet slices on top and give them a light drizzle of some good extra-virgin olive oil. Add some beet leaf pistou, recipe below, or your favorite pesto and serve.
Beet Leaf Pistou
Green tops from the baby beets plus an equal amount of chopped fresh basil and fresh flat-leaf parsley, about 2 cups total
3 tablespoons of walnuts, lightly toasted
1 or 2 cloves fresh garlic, to taste, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Add the beet leaves to a pot of boiling, salted water to wilt and remove after 10 seconds. Drain, squeeze out as much water as possible, and chop. Add the beet leaves, basil, parsley and walnuts to a food processor. Pulse into a rough paste.
Slowly add about 1 cup of olive oil while pulsing the food processor. Check the consistency of the pistou. At this point you will probably need additional olive oil. If so, add it slowly and continue to pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
All recipes are available in our RECIPES section