Cook's Illustrated Recipes»Breads»Italian»Cheese»Bruschetta with Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta and Basil Recipe

There’s a whole lot more to bruschetta than chopped tomatoes and basil. We wanted smart flavor combinations that didn’t require a bib.

The Problem

The ingredients in modern bruschetta-toasted bread, tomatoes, and basil-may be an appealing combination, but in reality, the tomatoes usually lack flavor, excess liquid results in soggy bread, and precariously stacked toppings often end up on your shirt.

The Goal

We wanted our bruschetta to be full of flavor, easy to eat, and substantial enough to serve as either an appetizer or light entree.

The Solution

Since August is the only time of year when tomatoes are at their flavorful best, we found that year-round, pantry-ready ingredients like marinated peppers paired with a sharp cheese like feta fit the bill for the punchy, concentrated flavors we desired.

Aside from deciding on the ingredients, our biggest challenge was figuring out how to contain the toppings on our toasts so that they were easy to pick up and eat, even when drizzled with the standard vinaigrette.

We realized early on that to make the whole package structurally sound from crust to crown, we needed a “glue” to anchor the toppings to the bread. After experimenting with mayonnaise and viscous emulsified vinaigrettes, we discovered that the solution didn’t lie in a condiment, but in a technique.

By pulsing one of the topping ingredients in the food processor until it formed a rough paste, not only did we achieve the stable base we needed for the other toppings, but we provided contrasting textures. Roasted peppers with whipped feta was a big hit with our tasters. And to make sure it could offer optimum crunch with each bite, we didn’t toast or top the bread until it was time to eat.

Once we had our technique perfected, we couldn’t wait to test it out with other ingredient combinations. Two of the other standout pairings were artichoke hearts with Parmesan, and olives with ricotta and basil.