What Is The Difference Between Bruschette And Crostini?

Short answer: about ¼inch/1cm thickness, some diameter, and maybe some garlic

Longer answer: both are heated slices of sliced thinnish bread – ciabatta for example or a baguette (to mix nationalities), drizzled with a little olive oil.

Crostini is the Italian for ‘little toasts’.

Bruschetta is a singular noun derived from the verb bruscare (also Italian) meaning ‘to roast over coals’ – bruschette (the plural) are usually rubbed with garlic first. They can be made from bread with a bigger diameter than a baguette (well-known long thin French loaf, typically about 5 cm wide), or from a baguette (approximately 50 vertical slices). A bruschetta, if made in Scandanavia, might be known as a toasted open sandwich.

Crostini on the other hand, again to mix nationalities, are best made with a ficelle (a smaller, thinner French loaf than the baguette, producing about 40 slightly thinner vertical slices).

But the truth is that both Italian words (bruschetta and crostini) have been absorbed into the English language to indicate something interesting on a disc of toasted, oiled bread to enjoy with a drink. The Spanish word, tapas (meaning a range of with-drinks nibbles – follow this link for a post on them) has enjoyed a similar career, now in frequent use by only-English speakers.

So, just to confuse things further, if you are in Venice the tapas  are called cicchetti. A good place to try out some on bread… crostini effectively…. is La Cantina, a bàcaro (a type of Venetian tavern) which specialises in all kinds of interesting toppings – for example – porcini, melted Asagio cheese and slivered almonds; or eel, zucchini flowers and basil; or veal kidneys (the best).

La Cantina (highly recommended) is at Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice, Venice – follow this link for The Guardian‘s review – it doesn’t have a website.

It’s no wonder people (including Italians) get confused – at the restaurant San Carlo Ciccetti in London, they list bruschetta (the classic type with garlic, basil and tomatoes) as a type of crostini. This restaurant, incidentally, is perfectly situated for refuelling prior to an afternoon sally to The Royal Academy – it’s on the opposite side of the road close to Picadilly Circus.

Whether bruschette or crostini, this is a good way of using up a left-over stick of French bread as well as the range of ageing items which will greet you when you open your fridge door. This Christmas I made crostini topped with leftover Beef Wellington with creamed horseradish; leftover smoked salmon – also with creamed horseradish; leftover vitello tonnato; and leftover foie gras teamed with black olives!

To make crostini or bruschette:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 210°C.
  • For bruschette, cut slices of about 1 cm/½” thickness, vertically (makes them smaller and easier to manage), cut a fat garlic clove in half and rub each slice. Or, you can very effectively use part baked baguettes which enables you to slice thinner and neater. For crostini, cut slightly thinner slices, don’t bother with the garlic.
  • Paint with olive oil (for a whole ficelle (a sort of thin baguette, ideal for crostini) you’ll need about ½ cup/120ml – an advantage of using cup measures is that you can just use the cup you’ve measured into – then use a pastry brush, less washing up).
  • Place on a baking tray and roast for five minutes or so – keep a hawk eye on them, especially if you have an Aga, slightly stale bread will roast better but only takes a trice. Part-baked slices will take a bit longer. Once just turning gold, turn, and cook for another couple of minutes or so, again watching beady-eyed.
  • Leave to cool (you can make a couple of hours ahead – store in a tuppa for a week or so, or they will freeze for a month or so) and then anoint with whatever you need to use up – see below for some inspiration.

Good toppings for crostini and bruschette are:

  • No-topping – but you need good quality olive oil, fresh garlic, and some chunky sea salt
  • classic – with tomato and basil
  • smoked eel and mayonnaise
  • truffled wild mushrooms (mix fried mushrooms with some cream and chives and either slivers of truffle (in which case use as garnish) or some truffle cream paste
  • or mushrooms fried with garlic and white wine
  • courgette flowers
  • tapenade and chopped black olives
  • cooked cannellini beans mashed with olive oil, garlic,  and rosemary
  • gorgonzola and honey
  • sea urchins
  • burrata, Parma ham and marinated black truffle (on the San Carlo Ciccetti menu)
  • or ham, brie or stilton, and cranberry sauce – a Christmasy one
  • goats’ cheese, beetroot and sultanas
  • radicchio, pear and an Irish blue cheese
  • crab, tomato, and parsley
  • pesto, prosciutto and roasted artichoke
  • red pepper, tomato, basil, spring onion, garlic
  • ricotta, chopped black olives, capers and basil
  • ricotta and broad beans
  • an idea from Nigel Slater’s A Year Of Good Eating: with soft goats’ cheese, thyme, black olives and ‘nduja – a type of spreadable, spiced Italian sausage
  • typically Tuscan – roughly-chopped chicken livers – good served with Vin Santo… or any other sweet wine…Marsala, Madeira, Mavrodaphne…
  • with burrata, orange and honey
  • cavolo nero, cannellini beans, garlic and chilli flakes
  • suggested by Diana Henry in her new book, Simple: lardo (a type of salumi made by curing strips of fatback with rosemary and other herbs and spices) and honey
  • top with zhoggiu sauce
  • goats cheese and balsamic roasted grapes with chopped hazelnuts
  • with maple-glazed apple, shallots, and Roquefort
  • salsa verde
  • a green mash of edamame, mint, cream and garlic topped with pancetta
  • Jamie Oliver, in Jamie Cooks Italy, suggests mashing grated raw asparagus with sea salt, basil leaves, lemon juice, grated parmesan, ricotta and black pepper. Use to top a garlicked slice of bruschetta. Reserve a few of the ingredients for garnish.

For a post on hibiscus crostini with brie and almonds follow this link.

For a post on the best bruschette I have ever eaten, follow this link.

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