Bruschetta has to be one of the most famous Italian starters. Who hasn’t tried bruschetta with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, also known as caprese bruschetta? To define it more accurately, course-wise, it’s an antipasto dish, meaning, it’s something you eat before you’re served the pasta course.
Pronunciation is Key
If there is one thing that many people get wrong, it’s how to pronounce the word ‘bruschetta.’ You and others are likely accustomed to pronouncing it ‘broo-shetta,’ but it’s wrong.
It’s a somewhat understandable error, given that the ‘sch’ is a ‘sh’ sound in German, and if you’re more familiar with Germanic-sounding words, you’re likely used to thinking that the ‘sch’ in bruschetta should be pronounced in a Germanic fashion. However, Italian is not German.
In Italian, the ‘ch’ is a hard ‘k’ sound, so that part of the word is pronounced ‘broo-sketta.’ But, if you’re really aiming to get the entire pronunciation correct, spend half a second more on the double-t’s before you get to the ‘a.’ Too many people make the double-t’s sound like this: ‘broo-skedda.’ That, too, is incorrect.
If you’re familiar at all with the Japanese language, say in subtitled anime, it might help a little to think of the Italian double-t’s like the Japanese double-t’s: you’re taking a mere half-second to emphasise the existence of that second ‘t’ in both languages.
The closest written approximation to true pronunciation, then, is ‘broo-skett-a.’
How Bruschetta Is Traditionally Made
It’s likely you’ve seen bruschetta piled high with half a dozen toppings, and you’ve probably had bruschetta like that, or perhaps fixed it that way yourself. While creativity is laudable in most cases, most Italians would be a bit sceptical about calling it ‘bruschetta.’
The word ‘bruschetta’ gives us a hint as to how it’s prepared. It comes from the word ‘bruscare,’ meaning ‘to roast over hot coals.’ The bread for bruschetta is thickly sliced and placed on a grill. Once both sides are cooked, rub half a garlic clove over one side of each slice, but don’t use too much. As you might guess, a little garlic goes a long way, and while bruschetta slices are larger than ones for crostini, most servings of bruschetta are not that large, as opposed to the gargantuan pieces of so-called ‘garlic bread’ you get in the frozen section at a supermarket.
Once all slices of bruschetta are rubbed with garlic, drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over them, and maybe sprinkle salt over them, to taste. To give you an idea of why the traditional way of preparation seems so ‘plain,’ bruschetta came about as a way to celebrate the Tuscan olive harvest, so ideally, you don’t want any other flavours to hinder the ability to taste the olive oil. If tomatoes were in season, then they’d be picked at the height of their flavour and used as a topping.
Now, all this said about the most traditional way to prepare bruschetta, there are other potential variations, such as the one from Campania, which uses kalamata olives and mozzarella cheese. You can also use wild mushrooms and basil (be sure to research which ones are edible, first) as well as prawns and capers, if you so choose, along with the potential of fresh vegetables. But whatever you do, keep the amount of toppings to a minimum. Again, you don’t want to disguise the flavour of the garlic or olive oil. More than maybe two or three toppings is technically overdoing it, and it no longer remains bruschetta, but instead simply becomes an open-faced sandwich.
Bruschetta is a wonderful starter to any Italian meal. Try some next time you go out, or learn to make your own. Either way, it’s a delicious addition to your knowledge of Italian cuisine.