If you’re hosting a party, you’re probably worried about what food to serve that won’t leave your guests hungry. That’s why bruschetta, makes for the perfect finger food for your next party. It’s more filling than cheese and crackers, but still isn’t as formal as a dinner party and requires far less preparation.
Though typical bruschetta just has tomatoes and olive oil, you can set up a bruschetta bar station where guests choose from a variety of toppings. Read on to see all the different ways you can serve up bruschetta and impress your friends at your next soiree!
What is bruschetta?
Bruschetta is toasted bread drizzled in olive oil that is typically served as an antipasto, the first course in an Italian meal. It is often topped with garlic and tomatoes, though if you are setting up a bruschetta bar, you’ll find there are many different ways you can serve bruschetta.
How to build your bruschetta bar
Step 1: Prepare the bruschetta bread
The best bread for bruschetta is typically a rustic Italian bread, though a baguette or sourdough bread will also work. Once you’ve selected your bread, you’ll want to toast it for serving.
First, cut your bread it into small slices, then brush olive oil on both sides. Place them in an oven set to 450°F for 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can toast the bread without olive oil and put olive oil and garlic on top of the bread once it is toasted, or even grill the bread instead of toasting it for an authentic Italian touch.
Step 2: Choose your bruschetta toppings
Types of spreads for your bruschetta bar
Bruschetta is typically topped with fresh tomatoes and basil, but if you are creating a bruschetta bar you can offer much more variety. Stray away from typical tomatoes with different jams, vegetables and other spreads.
Cannellini or white beans: A sprinkle of minced garlic and olive oil can also make a delicious combination. For extra protein, sprinkle some pancetta on top.
- Pairs with: minced garlic, olive oil, Italian spices
Marinated or sauteed vegetables: Vegetables offer many different options for toppings. Options like zucchini or eggplant are easy choices that only need a little seasoning.
- Pairs with: feta cheese, red pepper flakes
Pesto: Both basil pesto and sun-dried tomato pesto can be used as a spread for your bruschetta bar. Neither pesto should be combined with sweeter flavors.
- Pairs with: parmesan, salami
Red onion jam: Red onion jam offers a sweet and tart flavor that other spreads may not. Onion jams pair well with sliced meats and herbs. They shouldn’t be combined with sweeter flavors like fruits. Additionally, you can serve caramelized onions instead of red onion jam.
- Pairs with: sliced meats, parsley, oregano
Tapenade: Tapenade is made up of finely chopped or pureed olives, making it a great substitute for real olives at your bruschetta bar.
- Pairs with: salmon and mascarpone
Tomato: The classic tomato and basil combination is an absolute must at your bruschetta bar. To make this classic recipe, chop up the tomatoes and toss them in olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. When serving, sprinkle basil on top. You can also mix up what tomatoes you use to offer more subtle variants.
- Pairs with: olive oil, thyme, basil and oregano
Types of meat for your bruschetta bar
Adding meat to your bruschetta offers a great compliment to different spreads and makes the snack more filling if you’re only serving appetizers or finger foods. Feel free to stray away from typical Italian meats in favor of your favorites.
Coppa: Coppa is pork shoulder sliced paper thin with a strong paprika taste.
- Pairs with: harder cheeses, like parmesan
Pancetta: The Italian version of bacon, pancetta is a thicker prosciutto rolled up and cured with pepper. It has a robust, meaty flavor.
- Pairs with: mushrooms or vegetables
Prosciutto: There are two types of prosciutto—one from Spain and one from Italy. While both are absolutely delicious, if you want to stick with Italian flavors for your bruschetta bar, it’s best to go with the Italian prosciutto. This prosciutto is usually more thinly sliced and aromatic, making it perfect for bruschetta.
- Pairs with: mozzarella, balsamic vinegar
Salami: Salami can be from either pork or beef, and usually has a sweet, salty flavor with notes of pepper that complements other savory flavors.
- Pairs with: tapenade, olives and all cheeses
Smoked salmon: Smoked salmon is salmon that has been cured either hot or cold and requires no additional preparation on your end. It has a smoky flavor, differentiating it from most of the meats above.
- Pairs with: creamy cheeses and fruits like apples and pears
Types of cheese for your bruschetta bar
Everyone loves cheese, so adding a few types of cheese to your bruschetta bar gives your guests a great chance to mix things up and opt for different flavors. Italian cheeses are always a safe bet, but if you have other options you like more, those can be substituted. A few non-Italian options have been included below.
Brie: With a nutty, earthy flavor, brie is often a crowd favorite for soft cheeses. It also makes for a great alternative should you be unable to find burrata or other soft Italian cheeses.
- Pairs with: honey and fruit jams
Burrata: Burrata is an Italian buffalo milk cheese with a creamy and soft texture, making it easy to spread onto your bread. Made of mozzarella and cream, burrata has a thick outer curd that, when sliced open, reveals a buttery, soft cheese.
- Pairs with: fruits or tomatoes and olive oil
Feta cheese: Feta is a Greek cheese with a salty and briny flavor. It can be served at your bruschetta bar crumbled into a bowl or served as is.
- Pairs with: juicy tomatoes, vegetables and sweet fruits like pears or peaches
Goat cheese: Goat cheese is a type of cheese made from goat’s milk. It has a soft, crumbly texture with a strong, pungent flavor. Like with feta, you can crumble it into a bowl for easy serving.
- Pairs with: eggplant and most meats
Gorgonzola: Gorgonzola is a sharp, Italian cheese that can be either crumbly or firm. It is often compared to bleu cheese, and can be substituted with said cheese if needed. Given its strong flavor, be sure to separate gorgonzola from other cheeses so it won’t transfer its flavor.
- Pairs with: tomatoes, arugula and other Italian herbs
Mascarpone: Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that is used in desserts, but can often be used to substitute butter as well.
- Pairs with: apples, berries or whipped with fresh herbs
Mozzarella: Mozzarella cheese has a semi-soft texture and can be made from either cow or buffalo milk. It has a creamy, milky flavor, though you can opt for smoked mozzarella for a smoky taste.
- Pairs with: pesto, salami and other meats
Parmesan: Parmesan is a flavorful, hard Italian cheese with a fruity, nutty taste to it. It is typically aged for about two years and inferior versions of this cheese can have a bitter taste, so consider that when deciding which cheese to add to your bar.
- Pairs with: coppa, prosciutto and salami
Ricotta: Ricotta cheese is made up of leftover mozzarella. It’s creamy and fresh with a slightly sweet flavor. Additionally, don’t hesitate to put burrata, mozzarella and ricotta on your board as it gives guests different texture options!
- Pairs with: sweet jams, meats and vegetables
Additional bruschetta toppings
Beyond cheese, meat and different spreads, there are various toppings to consider leaving for your guests to add to their bruschetta. Be sure to include at least a few spices so people can add a sprinkle of flavor to their bruschetta as well as one type of nut and fruit to give people variety.
Condiments: balsamic vinegar, honey, fruit jams, marinara sauce
Fruits: avocado, dates, dried fruits, figs, grapes, olives, sliced apples or pears
Herbs and spices: arugula, basil, black pepper, Himalayan sea salt, minced garlic, oregano, parsley, scallions, red pepper, rosemary, thyme
Nuts: hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, sliced almonds
Step 3: Select your wines
It’s not a bruschetta bar without wine! Both red and white wines will do, though it is best to consider what type of cheeses you are serving for the most complementary flavors. Provide a variety for guests of both reds and whites, unless you know there is a unanimous preference.
Below are some common options that complement most of the cheeses mentioned above. For further help deciding which wines to pair with cheese, refer to this guide.
Step 4: Prepare your bruschetta bar
After you’ve picked out the various spreads, toppings and other garnishes you want to serve, you’ll want to prepare them to be served at your bruschetta bar so people can easily serve themselves.
If you’re making your own spreads, like the classic tomato and basil or homemade tapenade, you’ll want to do this before the party so you can keep things fresh. For things that can be preserved in a jar, like jams or pesto, you can even make or buy these ahead of time.
30-45 minutes before the party starts, set out the cheese so it can warm to room temperature by the time guests eat it. Open up any wines that need time to aerate and chop up bruschetta toppings that need additional preparation. Once you’re ready to prepare your bruschetta bar, gather all the different toppings and spreads and lay them out on either a cheese board, cutting board or several large plates.
You can separate based on flavor, such as a savory plate and a sweet plate, or organize each plate based on suggested combinations. For instance, you can have one plate with a traditional bruschetta spread of tomatoes, olive oil and basil and another plate with goat cheese, fig jam and proscuitto. It’s up to you and what you think your guests will prefer!
Besides the classic tomato and basil combination, it may be difficult to know what tastes best with on bruschetta. That’s why we’ve curated some of our favorite bruschetta recipes for you to create when you set up your bar.
With all the toppings for your bruschetta bar, you’ll need several plates for all the cheeses, meats and other spices you’re serving. Opt for a fun slate cheeseboard so you can write out all the yummy different things you’re serving so guests know exactly what they’re trying. Not only is it decorative and useful, but you’re sure to use it time and time again during other housewarming parties.