Disappointingly, my family tree shows no sign of an Italian heritage. Quite surprising really, considering my huge admiration for a food culture so steeped in history and tradition. Italian meal times are not just about feeding the body but also a time for sharing food, friendship and conviviality.
A typical meal starts with the antipasti, which means ‘before the meal’ and not ‘before the pasta’ as people often think. The purpose is to stimulate the appetite rather than satisfy it. This custom dates back to Ancient Roman times when a variety of light dishes where served before the feast. Modern day antipasti platters include cured meats, a variety of preserved vegetables, cheeses and of course, bread.
This tricolore Candied tomato bruschetta is my interpretation of a classic combination – tomatoes, ricotta and basil. It is ‘out of the park’ scrumptious! This coming from someone who, as a child, had to be paid 50 cents per half a tomato eaten, by frustrated and desperate parents. So, even if you’re not tomato fan, this is a game changer. Roasting the tomatoes intensifies the natural sugars and renders them softened and candy-like. All this crimson deliciousness is then piled onto a hot bruschetta with creamy ricotta and tangy goat’s cheese – summer on a plate.
Now for the clincher… We’re all familiar with the old adage of necessity being the mother of invention and so, what I’d like to ‘invent’ is more time. If you’re like me, trying to steal minutes here and there, especially when it comes to preparing meals, then this deal is definitely for you. These roasted tomatoes can be adapted into a couple of super simple dinners.
For a classic Napoletana sauce, scrape all the tomatoes into a blender and blitz briefly. Toss the sauce through cooked spaghetti and serve with fresh basil and parmesan. For a luxurious tomato soup, add 500ml hot chicken stock and a cup of single cream. Blitz until smooth, heat through and serve with buttered crostini. It also makes a great omelette filling together with a handful of rocket and a generous crumbling of salty feta. A delicious, carb free breakfast.
These bruschetta are perfect as a starter and are best served warm, preferably with your feet up and a glass of chilled Chardonnay in hand.
Candied tomato Bruschetta
- 500g cherry tomatoes or mixed exotic tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 20ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon castor sugar
- A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
- several stems fresh thyme
- salt and pepper
For the Bruschetta
- 1 ciabatta loaf (you can also use a good sourdough or rye bread)
- olive oil
- 100g ricotta
- 125g goat’s cheese
- fresh basil (baby basil leaves)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 190°Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick baking spray. Spread the tomatoes onto the sheet, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Scatter over the sugar, chilli, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss together and turn the tomatoes to face cut side up. Roast for 40-45 minutes or until the liquid is reduced.
- In the meanwhile, mix together the ricotta and goat’s cheese. Add a light drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Slice the ciabatta and brush with olive oil. Toast on both sides, preferably in a griddle pan or in a hot oven until the bread is crisp and golden. If you lovvvvve garlic, rub a cut clove over the hot bread to get your flavour on!
- Spread a generous layer of cheese onto each bruschetta. Pile on the tomatoes and top with basil. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.