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Perfect Crostini and Bruschetta: It's More than Just Toast

Updated on April 26, 2017
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

— Aristotle

You're Probably Wondering...

...what is a crostini? Well, the actual word is Italian for "little toasts". A small slice of bread is toasted, adorned with sweet and/or savory toppings, and served either warm or at room temperature.

But I've Also Heard of...

Bruschetta. What's the difference? There is a subtle difference (but to say there is no difference at all will bring about a lengthy and heated discussion with any person of Italian descent, trust me).

Bruschetta is more about the bread that the toppings. In fact, the word bruschetta is derived from the word bruscare, which means to roast over coals. A big, rustic loaf is cut into ample slices, toasted on a grill, and then rubbed with the cut side of a clove of garlic. A drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and you're good to go. Some people like to 'fancy it up' with chopped fresh tomato, torn basil leaves and perhaps just a kiss of balsamic vinegar.

Why Are We Getting So Excited About Toast?

Look back at the quote from Aristotle. Simple ingredients—each on their own are good, but combine artisanal bread with garden-crisp vegetables, fresh herbs, and the best meat and cheeses—how can you go wrong?

Let's Focus on the Basics

Every building project begins with a firm foundation—even Italian toasts rely on a good-quality base. This is not the place for the middle-of-the-shelf two loaves for a dollar bread. Not Wonder Bread. Not sandwich bread. Crostini and bruschetta are based on a sturdy bread with a crisp crust and a soft and tangy interior, something artisanal, rustic, and crusty.

Step 1 - The Bread

I've already told you that you need to use a crusty loaf from the bakery. Your next step is make diagonal slices—angle your knife 45 degrees so that you have slices long and slim instead of straight up and down.

The perfect slice is 1/2-inch thick.

Step 2 - The Toasting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the bread on 2 large baking sheets and brush each slice on both sides with the olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. (If undersides are not browning, turn crostini over once during baking). Let cool on baking sheets. Top crostini with desired toppings, and serve.Let cool completely.

Recipes

Step 3 - The Beautiful, Glorious Toppings

How many ways can you make an Italian "little toast"? The only limit is your imagination (and what you have available in your pantry). Let's begin with the well-known savory little bite we call bruschetta, which, by tradition, holds diced chopped tomatoes and fresh basil.

Basic Bruschetta

  1. Slice and toast the bread as explained in Steps 1 and 2 above.

Ingredients
Why?
1 1/2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes
Romas are meatier; fewer seeds
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Provides a bite, a bit of heat
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
Dressing for your "salad"
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
sweet and tangy
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced
herby bright flavor
1/2 teaspoon salt
brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
the bite of heat rounds out the flavors
  1. Slice the tomatoes vertically into quarters. Remove the seeds (with the tip of a spoon or your fingertips) then roughly chop the tomatoes into small dice.
  2. Mix diced tomatoes with remaining ingredients. Don't top the toasts with tomato mixture until ready to eat (these quickly get soggy, and you want the toast to be crisp/crunchy).

Now that you know the basic recipe, I'm going to share some flavor combinations with you.

Recipes/Suggestions in this Article:

  • Basic Tomato/Basil Bruschetta
  • Cranberry/Bacon Jam Crostini
  • Shrimp/Avocado Crostini
  • Smoked Salmon/Marscapone Crostini
  • Italian Meatball Crostini
  • Apricot/Goat CheeseCrostini
  • Whipped Feta/Olive Tappendade Crostini
  • Mushroom Pesto Crostini
  • Apple and Honey Crostini
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Spread and Strawberry Crostini
  • Sweet Cherries with Ricotta Crostini

Meaty/Cheesy Crostini

Cranberry-Bacon Jam crostini
Cranberry-Bacon Jam crostini | Source

Cranberry Bacon Jam Crostini

Marion is the "chief cook, bottle washer, recipe developer, photographer, writer, social media crazy person, and founder of Life Tastes Good". And she also created this savory bite of cheese, smoky bacon and tart/tangy cranberries.

And here are some more great flavor combinations:

1st Layer
Middle Layer
Garnish
Shrimp/Avocado
 
 
mashed avocado with a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon lime juice
shrimp, cleaned, shelled, and cooked
dash of smoked paprika
Smoked Salmon/Mascarpone
 
 
mascarpone cheese with chopped chives
smoked salmon (sliced very thinly)
fresh dill sprigs and rinsed drained capers
Italian Meatball
 
 
marinara sauce
pre-cooked frozen meatballs warmed according to package instructions and sliced in half
sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese

Vegetarian

Apricot/goat cheese/pistachio crostini
Apricot/goat cheese/pistachio crostini | Source

Apricot/Goat Cheese Crostini

Jessica Erin of stuckonsweets.com provides this introduction to her site: "I am the recipe developer, photographer, and writer behind this here blog! You will find a little of everything including healthy meals, comfort food, and my favorite - sweets. So stay awhile...I hope you're hungry!"

Her apricot/goat cheese crostini has it all—tangy goat cheese, sweet brightly-colored apricots, and the crunch of salty green pistachios.

And then...

1st Layer
Middle Layer
Garnish
Whipped Feta/Olive Tappenade
 
 
1 cup feta, 1/4 cup cream cheese, 2 T Parmesan and 2 tsp. lemon juice
Mix of ripe, green, and Kalamata olives, chopped
arugula leaves, torn
Mushroom Pesto
 
 
Basil pesto
3 cups assorted sliced mushrooms sauteed in olive oil
shaved Parmesan cheese

Dessert

brie, apple, and honey crostini
brie, apple, and honey crostini | Source

This is not the first time I have introduced you to Maria and Josh, the humans behind the sweet blog twopeasandtheirpod. They are so creative, I feel it's worth taking another look. Maria's apple/honey crostini requires one different step—the bread slices are topped with brie prior to going into the oven.

And a few more dessert ideas:

1st Layer
Middle layer
Garnish
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread with Strawberries
 
 
Nutella
fresh strawberries, sliced
pinch of sea salt
Sweet Cherries with Ricotta
 
 
fresh ricotta cheese
sweet cherries, pitted, chopped, and mixed with sugar
lemon zest

© 2017 Linda Lum

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    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 6 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - You have made me SOOOOO happy. Thank you for sharing that.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 6 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Linda, Just as I thought the bruschetta was a hit with my family. I made the simple ones with just the tomatoes on it because it went better with my meal. Very Good!

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 7 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - That makes me so happy!!!!

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 7 weeks ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Linda, I want you to know I'm making the tomato crostini this weekend for my family and have no doubt they will love it.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 7 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna - I was first introduced to goat cheese when I visited my cousins in Slovenia. Cows and goats graze on the hillside just moments from their house, and the cheese was the freshest you will find anywhere. Our meal was simple--a few cheeses, sliced meat, and fresh bread but it was absolutely Heavenly. Good memories.

      For that reason I love goat cheese and look for excuses to use it. My family thinks it a bit funky, but using the sweet apricots and pistachios brings them over to my side.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I'm glad I ate lunch before reading this, Diva. It all looks so yummy. Goat cheese, apricot and pistachios sounds like the ticket to satisfy my occasional sweet tooth.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Lori - Buttery, crunchy bread AND yummy toppings too? Sounds like Heaven, doesn't it? I'm glad you found this article and hope you will soon try some of these ideas.

      I look forward to hearing from you again.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 2 months ago from Pacific Northwest

      I don't know why but I thought bruschetta was a meat like prosciutto. I worked in a deli for three years. I should know better. These look delicious. Can't wait to try them. I love hot crusty bread.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish - You had me with "shrimp." I love seafood anytime on anything, but now it's just my husband and me (both daughters are vegetarian) so seafood doesn't appear in our house as often as I would like. I'll bet your dad's version is wonderful. What type of cheese does he use. And are those cajun seasonings, or ???

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 months ago from USA

      You are a good artisan to be sure. My dad has his own concoction using shrimp, spices, and melts cheese and it's wonderful.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Spanish Food - Your pan con tomate (bread with tomato) looks wonderful. I'll add that to my list of things to do with summer tomatoes fresh from the garden (or, in my case, the Farmers' Market). Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your idea.

    • Spanish Food profile image

      Lena Durante 2 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Dessert crostini... now there's an idea I've never tried!

      What a fun round-up of recipes. The only thing I would add is the Spanish version of bruschetta--pan con tomate. I just posted a recipe for it, myself!

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      RTalloni - This was a fun article to put together; actually I didn't quite know when to stop. There are so many way to make these toasts. I'm glad that I have inspired you. I hope a few others are too.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 months ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this look at Italian toasts and the recipes with an overview of toppings. Am looking forward to developing some topping using your post as a guide.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - I thought about you when I wrote this, and hoped that it would meet with your approval. Thanks for your kind words and support. I hope you have a great weekend. Hard to believe that May is already just around the corner. The weeks (and years) seem to be a blur. I guess that's because I'm on the other side of the mountain sliding down.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I just signed up for you creative corner and will get to your book soon.

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 2 months ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Being Italian, of course, I have had and made crostini/bruschetta, but you have a lot more interesting combinations here. I love every one of them. They are making my mouth water. I will be trying them. Thanks so much for the ideas. I will pin these recipes.

      Blessings to you.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, do you have my book?

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      O' my Linda, my mom and I would fix something up from Souvlaki to tacos and munch away and watch Julia. We had Vinegar verses Mustard swaps, who could find the best.

      "Food is not food unless it is cherished. Otherwise it is just milk and cereal" was a favorite of hers. We as a people are bound by food, it is the sharing of sustenance via art. It is love made manifest through the growing and metamorphose into art. Breaking bread is the eternal communion in love. I preach love, you preach love through food.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric - Crostini is such a fun finger food and it can be taken in so many different directions. Want Italian (which of course, is the obvious choice), you can do that. But you can turn it completely upside down and go Asian flavors, Mexican, sweet/savory, dessert, whatever your little heart (and tummy) desires.

      I'm thinking wouldn't it be fun to plan a buffet-style party around crostini? Bake the toasts ahead of time and put out an assortment of topping for your friends to make their own original creations.

      One version (that I SHOULD have included in this article and just remember this moment) was at the wedding reception for my husband's nephew and his bride. One of the appetizers was crostini with cream cheese, mango chutney (Major Grey's is the best one in my humble opinion), and very thinly sliced turkey breast. The chutney was such an unexpected flavor and made the whole thing really POP!

      And, dear friend, I can't believe that you are comparing me to Julia Child. I know that you are younger than me, but I'm pretty sure you must have seen reruns of her "French Chef" series on PBS. I absolutely adore her vitality and spunk and ability to bounce back when something in the kitchen goes wrong--on air and in front of countless viewers!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Whahoo, my brain is signaling backwards to my olfactory and the aroma and scent are as real as they can be. You make Julia Childs, God rest her soul, a mere toddler in the sandbox of food.

      As I was reading I was noting that if just the finest/organic type stuff is used it fits in with my "diet".

      What does it mean "Artisan"?

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 2 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Wow Bill, I honestly did not see that coming. I was almost positive that you'd give me a big thumbs down. Let's see what the rest of our friends have to say. Have a great day--the sun is out.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I would eat these. I have eaten them. Case closed and this article was a success. I gets my finicky seal of approval. :)

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