Bruschetta has made a splash on American menus in recent years as a light appetizer of choice in Italian restaurants. We’re going to take a slight detour from the international aisle today — although, be sure to pick up some extra virgin olive oil as you roll by.

After that, head to produce and pick up a whole lotta cherry tomatoes. We’re going to add an Italian touch to your Christmas Eve.

Kind of a big deal in Italy

Today is Christmas Eve, but the Italians started their holiday celebrations days ago. Things generally kick off eight days before the 25th, on Novena, when children begin caroling from house to house. Looks like the kids have some catching up to do. Perhaps get them involved in making this Italian-inspired appetizer for your holiday dinner.

Cooking the traditional dinner

Bruschetta 1of4
Christmas Eve dinner in Italy is called cenone, and meat is rarely on the menu. Fish prevails. What fish and how it’s cooked will vary from region to region, a result of the varying culinary traditions inherent in Italy’s very distinct regions.

A spicy intro

The first step in the recipe is roasting a whole garlic bulb with thyme and a bay leaf. This could be a great opportunity to introduce children to some of the varied flavors of your spice rack. They can pull apart the thyme sprigs a little and grind up some black pepper for the garlic and also to sprinkle on the bread.

Everything Americanized

Bruschetta 2of4
As is often the case with dishes Americans classify as Italian, what we’re making here bears little resemblance to what an Italian would identify as bruschetta. Italian-American restaurants have taken to piling them high with spices and tomatoes. Today’s recipe is much more American than Italian, because it commits a slight Italian culinary faux pas by combining olive oil and butter.

However, it’s easy to make and should certainly please your guests.

Bruschetta with Roasted Garlic Butter, Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients for Roasted Garlic Butter

  • 1 garlic bulb, whole
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened

Instructions for Roasted Garlic Butter

  1. Preheat your oven or countertop oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the garlic bulb in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the thyme and bay leaf on the bulb. Bring the sides of the foil together tightly, forming a pouch, and place on roasting pan or cookie sheet. Set the rack in the oven orcountertop oven to the lowest position.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Leave oven on.
  5. Remove from the oven when the garlic is soft. Allow to cool; then, in a small bowl, squeeze the bulb until the pulp is released. Combine with butter. Season with salt and pepper.

Ingredients for Bruschetta

  • Roasted Garlic Butter (above)
  • 1 French baguette
  • 40 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

Instructions for Bruschetta

  1. While the Roasted Garlic Butter is roasting, cut the cherry or grape tomatoes in half and then in thirds. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Add olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and add fresh basil. Set aside.
  2. When the Roasted Garlic Butter is ready, put it all together. Cut the baguette diagonally into ½-inch slices. Generously spread a layer of the garlic butter on one side of the slices. Move the oven rack to the middle position. Arrange butter side up in a single layer directly on the rack.
  3. Bake until golden brown. Remove from oven and place a heaping tablespoon of tomato mixture onto each slice of toasted bread. Serve immediately.