When the weather is hot and the days are long, there’s no better way to enjoy dinner in the summer than grilling. Americans love a good summer barbecue (their actually quite known of it over here in Italy, where this tradition hasn’t really taken root). Americans are game to throw most anything on the grill– steak, chicken, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, vegetables, even fruit (grilled pineapple and peaches are to die for). With this post I’d like to introduce you to another potential addition to this summer’s grilling menu that is sure to become your new favorite: bruschetta. Let’s start with some background: The word “bruschetta” comes from the Italian verb “bruscare,” which means to “to roast over coals,” i.e grill (or toast, if that’s easier) your bread. 

The classic and perhaps most familiar bruschetta is garlic rubbed bread topped with a mixture of chopped tomatoes, olive oil, and salt with a little basil to garnish. While this traditional version is light, easy, and tasty – ideal for the summer – bruschetta is extremely versatile, the bread acting as a blank canvas for all sorts of creations (not so different from pasta, really). Bruschetta can be eaten as an appetizer, as a light lunch or dinner, or, believe it or not, as a dessert (because of course bread should be part of dessert, too!) You could even do a little bruschetta festa for dinner --  prepare toppings for four (or more if you’re feeling ambitious) bruschetta in advance, grill up some bread, and you have the perfect, unexpected summer meal, ideal for entertaining.

The bruschette I chose to share with you are: 

Bruschetta with goat cheese and bell peppers and pine nuts
Bruschetta with slow roasted balsamic tomatoes and ricotta
Bruschetta with prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula 

These are three of my very favorite bruschette; the slow roasting and balsamic vinegar turns your average cherry tomato into something really special, tangy goat cheese is the perfect complement to sweet and smoky bell peppers, and prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula are a flavor match made in heaven. And you can’t of course go wrong when you put Nutella on bread and top it with bananas. Note that I have provided quantities and recipes below, but you can probably just eye ball the ingredients for the toppings – bruschetta is easy like that.

Use your imagination and be as creative with your toppings as you like. I’ve also included ideas for other combinations at the end of this post, but the possibilities are endless. Enjoy! 

Ingredients for Slow roasted balsamic tomato and ricotta bruschetta: 
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (you can use a mix of yellow,
orange, and red tomatoes to make this extra pretty if you want)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil
1 ½ cups ricotta cheese
6-8 slices of good quality Italian bread  

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place halved cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and toss with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast the cherry tomatoes in the oven for an hour and a half, until they are brown and caramelized.

While the tomatoes are roasting, slice up the loaf of bread. Toast the bread in the oven (after the tomatoes have roasted, if you don’t have a double oven) or grill it.

When the tomatoes are done, put them in a medium bowl and allow them to cool. Slice the basil into thin strips and toss 1/2 of the basil into the cherry tomato mixture. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Spread some ricotta on each piece of toasted bread. Top with the roasted cherry tomatoes, and garnish with a bit more sliced fresh basil. Makes 2 cups of topping, enough for 6-8 bruschette (depending on the size of your bread slices). Enjoy! 

Ingredients for prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula bruschetta: 
8 slices of good quality prosciutto
1 (4 oz) ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into pieces
A handful of arugula
Olive oil
8 slices of good quality Italian bread, toasted/grilled

Toast or grill your bread and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange the prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula on the bread and that’s it. Feel free to up the quantity of ingredients depending on how many bruschette you want to make. 

Ingredients for red pepper and goat cheese bruschetta: 
1 large red bell pepper and 1 large orange or yellow bell pepper (or
a mixture of the 3)
6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), room temperature (about 1 ½ cups)
6-8 slices of good quality Italian bread
Pine nuts, toasted (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Char the bell peppers over gas flame or under a broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in a paper bag 10 minutes. Peel and seed the pepper; cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Alternatively, you can slice the peppers in to thin strips and sauté them in olive oil until softened. The flavor will be sweet rather than smoky but still delicious. Make sure you season them with salt and pepper. Toast or grill your bread. Spread the goat cheese on the toasted bread and top with the peppers. Sprinkle with pine nuts if using, and serve. Makes 8 bruschette. 

Other ingredient combinations:

Garlic rubbed bread, olive oil, salt
Sautéed zucchine with pancetta 
Sautéed portabella mushrooms and goat cheese
Sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, basil
Slow roasted tomatoes, burrata cheese, basil
White beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and basil
Eggplant, cherry tomatoes, basil, pine nuts
Pesto (purchased is fine or use my recipe here)
Olive tapenade (purchased, if you want to make it easier) 

Nutella with banana (see photo below) 
Ricotta drizzled with honey (dessert)
Ricotta and strawberries tossed with sugar (dessert)
Nutella sprinkled with sea salt (dessert)
Nutella and strawberries (dessert)

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