Bread. Tomatoes. Olive oil. When you have just a few great ingredients, magic happens. Sit down at any given tapas bar during tomato season, and a plate of toasted rustic bread imbued with garlic and topped with a slick of olive oil and beautiful red tomato pulp will appear.
In Spain, many people enjoy these hunks of tomato-covered bread for breakfast. Served as an appetizer, they’re sometimes topped with ham, anchovies, or a slice of cheese. Of course, you can add your own toppings beyond the basics, such as fresh herbs or hard-boiled egg slices.
What Is Pan con Tomate?
It all started in Catalan in northeastern Spain. The locals use hanging tomatoes from the markets there to make pan con tomate. Even the inhabitants of Madrid are not privileged to experience that particular local version (you can’t buy the special tomatoes outside of Catalan). Luckily, the city invented their own version, which you see here.
To make pan con tomate Madrid-style, scrape a tomato over the large holes of a grater, letting the pulp and juice accumulate in a bowl. Spoon the tomato goodness over toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzle with olive oil.
The Best Bread for Pan con Tomate
A rustic loaf of bread with lots of flavor is the best bread to use. When you have only a few ingredients, you want to use the best quality you can find. I like to use thick slices of ciabatta loaf, which are substantial and satisfying.
Cut the loaf in half for ease of slicing (with the flat side down on the cutting board). You want slices that are thick enough to support the juicy tomatoes and keep the bread from becoming soggy. Aim for a size that is manageable to hold with your hands, about 3 to 4 inches long. Remember, these are rustic bites, so don’t stress over perfection.
Toast the bread under the broiler or grill them. Your goal is to dry the bread a little on the outside, leaving it chewy on the inside with a nice golden surface. Charred edges are tasty, too!
The Best Tomatoes for Pan con Tomate
Local ripe and juicy summer tomatoes (as opposed to hothouse tomatoes) are going to give you the best tomato flavor and texture. Try visiting your local farmers market or, if you have a garden, use homegrown tomatoes. They should feel heavy for their size but firm.
How to Make It Ahead
These little toasts are great to have with drinks before the main course is ready. Making the components ahead and assembling just before serving make them especially convenient.
Grate the tomatoes and store the pulp at room temperature for a few hours before serving, or refrigerate for up to a day, allowing it to come to room temperature for the best flavor.
Toast the bread a few hours ahead as well, re-crisping in a 350ºF oven for about 10 minutes to restore its crunch. Spread with the pulp and drizzle with more oil just before serving.
Celebrate Summertime Tomatoes
- Tomato Ricotta Tart
- Bruschetta With Tomato and Basil
- Pineapple Tomato Salsa
- Guacamole with Charred Sweet Corn, Bacon and Tomato
- Mozzarella and Basil Stuffed Tomatoes
Prepare and toast the bread:
Set an oven rack 7 to 8 inches from the broiler element and turn the broiler on high.
Cut the ciabatta loaf in half to make it easier to slice. Place the flat sides of the loaf on a cutting board and cut each into approximately 1 1/2-inch slices. Depending on the size of the loaf, cut the slices in half. You are aiming for slices that are about 4 inches long, a good size to pick up easily with your hands and bite into.
Arrange the slices on a baking sheet in an even layer. Brush with olive oil
Broil the slices for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the edges are slightly charred and the bread is crisp. Cool briefly, then scrape the garlic cloves over the surface of the bread.
Grate the tomatoes:
Set a box grater in a shallow bowl. Grate the tomatoes against large holes of the grater. Flatten your hand as you grate and move it back and forth until the flesh drops into the bowl and only the skins remain. Discard the skins and stir in the salt. Taste and add more salt if you like.
Assemble and serve the pan con tomate:
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the tomato mixture over each slice of bread. Drizzle with more oil, sprinkle with flaky salt, and serve.
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