Why It Works
- Canned tomatoes are packed when ripe, which means they have much better flavor than out-of-season fresh ones.
- Gently roasting them in the oven concentrates their flavor, for an even bigger tomato-flavored punch.
A few things about bruschetta: First, it's pronounced brew-SKET-ta, not brew-SHET-ta. And bruschetta does not have to be made with tomatoes, but if that’s what you desire, and a perfect summer tomato is months away, you should walk right past the produce section and head straight to the canned-foods aisle to grab a couple of tins of peeled whole tomatoes.
Unlike out-of-season fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes really are picked when ripe and then processed right away, which means they'll have significantly more flavor. But one result of the canning process is that those tomatoes are cooked, leaving them soft and mushy, and therefore nearly impossible to dice. Since there's no way to reverse the clock and return them to their uncooked state, the best thing to do is to embrace it by slowly cooking them even more in a low oven. You'll end up with concentrated, jammy-sweet tomatoes that make a killer bruschetta-style topping for toasts. (It's a method we used back when I worked at the chef Cesare Casella's Tuscan restaurant Beppe, in New York City.)
Because cooked tomatoes have so much more free liquid than fresh tomatoes, driving off excess moisture is key to this process. So, in this case, I start by draining the canned tomatoes and tearing each one open to discard its wet seeds.* I then arrange them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and transfer them to a 300°F (150°C) oven to cook, until their excess juices have completely evaporated and the tomatoes have taken on a deep red color. This should take roughly one hour, though that time will vary depending on the oven.
*In canned tomatoes, those seeds have also already given up much of their flavor to the rest of the flesh, which means that we don't take a huge hit on flavor by discarding them. When using fresh I always keep the flavorful seeds in.
I chop the oven-roasted tomatoes, then mix them with fresh basil, olive oil, and wine vinegar. It's difficult to give an exact quantity for the vinegar, because this will depend heavily on the flavor of the specific canned tomatoes you're using. It's best to add a splash, mix it in, and then taste it before deciding whether to add more or not. A pinch of sugar can also sometimes help nail the perfect balance of sweet-tart flavor you're going for, but go easy on it.
I spoon this oven-roasted bruschetta topping onto slices of fettunta (garlic-rubbed olive oil toasts), just as I do with the fresh-tomato version.
Some folks may say this isn't true bruschetta because it's not made with fresh tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure just one bite will convince them that it's worlds better than the out-of-season alternative. Then we can all be bruschetta pedants together, and our food will taste better for it.
2 (28-ounce; 794g) cans peeled whole tomatoes, drained, stem ends trimmed and any bits of skin removed
1/4 cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
15 large basil leaves, thinly sliced into a chiffonade
Red wine vinegar, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Freshly toasted sliced bread, for serving
Halved garlic cloves, for rubbing on toasts
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Working over a bowl, using your fingers, tear each tomato in half and press out and discard the seeds. Arrange tomatoes on prepared baking sheet in one layer, season with salt, and drizzle all over with olive oil. Transfer to oven and cook until excess juices have evaporated and tomatoes look slightly dry on the exterior but still moist within, about 1 hour.
Transfer oven-roasted tomatoes to a work surface and chop finely.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and basil and stir well. Season with salt and add red wine vinegar, about 1 teaspoon at a time, until tomatoes are very lightly tart. Stir in a pinch of sugar to help pump up tomatoes' natural sweetness even more; add more sugar sparingly to taste, if desired.
Rub top sides of toasts all over with garlic (rub more on for a stronger flavor, or less for a gentler one). Drizzle toasts with olive oil and season lightly with salt. Spoon tomatoes on top and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||4%|
|Total Carbohydrate 12g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 14mg||69%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|