10-Minute Tapas: Pan Con Tomate Recipe
If you're trying to plan an easy tapas menu, pan con tomate should be at the top of your list. It only takes 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to make, leaving plenty of time and energy for more complicated tapas dishes.
This dish packs a big punch of fresh garlic flavor, but is deceptively simple to make. It's an easy addition to a party menu, or a perfect snack in the middle of a busy day. Depending on your needs and personal preferences, you can also top pan con tomate with chopped fresh herbs, or have it with cheese, chorizo or sausage to make it a full meal. The versatility and ease are what keep me coming back to this recipe over and over again.
Pa amb tomàquet is the Catalan name for what is essentially a Spanish bruschetta. Tomatoes only came to Spain from the new world in the 15th Century, and it is unclear exactly when the dish was first served, but the first written reference is from the late 1800's. Cooking historians believe that rural Spaniards began softening stale bread with tomatoes after a good harvest, and it has since become an important traditional food in Catalan identity.
It's easy to see why the rest of the country (and, indeed, the world!) have picked up the technique. It is simple make and incredibly tasty, with the classic flavors of olive oil, tomato, and garlic that are so iconic in Spanish cuisine.
"Pan con tomate" and "pa amb tomaquet" both mean "bread with tomato."
Where Is It From?
This is the region most closely identified with pan con tomate.
How to Make Pa Amb Tomaquet
Toasted bread is rubbed with fresh garlic and ripe tomato, sprinkled with coarse salt, and drizzled with fruity olive oil. To make authentic pa amb tomàquet, the ingredients must be applied in that order for maximum flavor.
You can serve bigger hunks of it as an appetizer or snack, or cut the bread up into a more appropriate size for finger food and have it as part of a larger tapas spread. If it's too simple for you as is, pan con tomate can also be topped with serrano or Iberico ham, marinated anchovies, or olives.
The traditional pan de cristal can be difficult to find outside of Spain, but ciabatta is similarly airy and makes a good substitute. Some recipes use baguette, which works perfectly well, but I find that the nice airy texture of ciabatta yields the best results.
Pan Con Tomate Recipe
- 1 loaf ciabatta, or 4 ciabatta rolls
- 2 large tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, cut in half
- olive oil
- coarse sea salt
- Split the loaf of bread in half horizontally, and place both halves cut-side-up on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan.
- Put under the broiler under high heat for 2-3 minutes, until the bread is toasty and begins to char around the edges. (If you have no broiler, you can also toast them for 7-8 minutes in an oven preheated to 500 F.)
- Rub the toasted bread with the cut side of the garlic cloves. Do the same with the tomatoes, rubbing as much pulp onto the toast as you can, discarding large pieces of tomato skin.
- Sprinkle with coarse or flaked salt, then drizzle with olive oil. Cut into desired size pieces and serve!
See the Technique
Why Is Coarse Salt Important?
In this recipe, there are several reasons for using coarse Kosher salt, rather than fine-grain table salt.
- Control: Fine-grain salt is harder to distribute evenly. You should sprinkle by hand, between your first two fingers and thumb.
- Presentation: Kosher or flake salt looks more appealing, and as we have all heard, "you eat first with your eyes."
- Texture: The larger grains provide a pleasant crunch in contrast to the softened top layer of toast.
- Flavor: Bigger salt grains mean you get bursts of salinity, which makes eating the dish a more dynamic experience.
Although it isn't technically authentic, you'll sometimes see restaurants serving toasted bread alongside a bowl of tomato sauce that has been pre-blended, and which you spoon over the crostini as you eat it.
You can do something similar at home by grating the tomatoes with a box grater to make pulp, then mixing with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. You should still rub your ciabatta with garlic cloves, though, or it just won't taste as good! Then, spoon the mixture over the bread as seen below, or serve it on the side.