Preparation time – l5 mins
Cooking time – nothing unless you make your own bread
Bruschetta is SUMMER. Its a classic Italian appetiser and sitting in the sun, preferably by a pool, with a cold glass of something – absolutely nothing beats this as a tasty snack or a light lunch. Bread, fresh tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil – it couldn’t be simpler and it is so good. But not all bruschetta were created equal, and this little beauty, enjoyed at Masseria Narducci, a historic farmhouse, just outside Fasano in the Southern Italian region of Apulia – or Puglia as us Brits know it – has got to be one of the best I’ve had (although this is actually called Friselle, which I’ll explain further down). Owned and run by the Narducci family, this gorgeous little agritourismo is set amongst centuries-old olive groves. An agriturismo – from the Italian words agricoltura (agriculture) and turismo (tourism)- is, by the simplest definition, a working farm that also offers dining, accommodation or both but that underplays the incredible variety on offer- from vineyards to olives groves to former monasteries, lakes, mountains, beaches, you name it, you’ll find. I discovered agriturismo.it a few years back when planning a road trip from the north of Italy to the south. If you’re planning a trip to Italy and are looking for somewhere to stay that’s not the typical tourist hotels, supports local businesses and celebrates the best of regional culture and cuisine then give it a look.
Now, back to the Bruschetta or in the case of the one enjoyed in the picture, Friselle.
Friselle is a close, ancient cousin to Bruschetta. Made from durum wheat flour, the dry, round or now donut shaped bread first appeared around the 10th century and hails from the merchant history of the South of Italy. At the time, not many things could be stored and kept for long passage at sea but Friselle, once dried absolutely could and the tradition of sprinkling with sea water and olive oil to soften the bread before eating is what we owe the creation of Bruschetta too.
There’s a few little tricks that will take your Bruschetta to the next level. First and foremost, the difference between a good bruschetta and a great bruschetta is down to the quality of the ingredients. It goes without saying that fresh and seasonal is best and if you can give grow your own a go, I promise you will not regret it.
Bread – 8 slices of a rustic, robust bread that will hold it together when toasted and loaded with tomatoes. You can buy traditional Pane Pugliese (Puglinese Bread) toasting bread from supermarkets or use ciabatta, sour dough, baguette slices, just don’t use a slice of Mighty White.
Fresh tomatoes (and if you can give it a go, preferably home grown) – approximately 500gs. Last year I grew cherry tomatoes and these were perfect
Fresh basil (and if you can give it a go, preferably home grown…there’s a theme here) – 8 to 10 leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Clove of garlic peeled
Dried oregano – season to your own taste
Salt – fine salt, season to your own taste
How to prepare
Wash and quarter the tomatoes and put them in a bowl with the olive oil, oregano and salt and mix thoroughly.
Tip: Prepare the tomato mix in advance, preferably leaving at room temperature for a couple of hours if you can to really let the flavours come alive.
Under a hot grill or in a grill pan toast the slices of bread on both sides and, as soon as they are ready, rub the garlic clove across the top. Personally, I like a lot of garlic (sorry partner) but flavour to your own taste.
Tear the basil leaves (leaving 2 or so for )and mix into the tomato mixture.
Drizzle oil onto the bread and spoon the tomatoes on.
Leone de Castris Messapia Salento, Verdeca
Puglia is probably best known for red wines like Primitivo, but Verdeca, originally a Greek grape variety, is a white grape grown throughout the region. The dry, hot climate of the south produces a straw, yellow wine with refreshing, citrus flavours. On the global wine stage, it might be considered on the acidic side and is obviously less revered than Italy’s northern whites but for me, nothing beats a glass of the local stuff.