Pan con tomate - "bread with tomato" - is a Spanish tapas classic. It's a super easy combination but it transforms plain old bread into a tasty side or base for an open sandwich.
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I first came across pan con tomate, or pa amb tomàquet as it is called in Catalan, when I lived in Catalunya many years ago. When I first had it, a friend showed me how to put it together and I was immediately hooked. It's such a simple but delicious combination.
From then on, I joined in the local tradition of having it alongside most tapas meals and made it at home as well. When I then lived in Madrid a few years later, I was excited to come across it again. Except there it was different.
What's in pan con tomate?
- toasted bread
- olive oil
There's no more to it than these five ingredients, yet as I found out, how they are put together can vary. From what I can work out, it boils down to a Catalan method, then everywhere else.
One thing that is consistent is that you are only using a few ingredients, so make sure they are good ones. Use good quality, ripe tomatoes and a good olive oil, ideally extra virgin.
It's typically made with white, crusty bread - sometimes called a "country bread" - but again, a good artisanal one will be best. You want something without too many holes that will hold up to having oil and tomato on top without going to mush.
Catalan-style pa amb tomàquet
The Catalan style which I originally tried is made as follows:
- Rub the toasted bread with garlic;
- Slice a tomato through the middle and rub the cut side of the tomato on the bread;
- Sprinkle over a little salt and drizzle with olive oil.
Andalucian/central Spanish pan con tomate
What I later tried in Madrid, and have had in Andalucia (which is where I believe this approach originates) is a little different:
- Grate tomato and mix it with some crushed/grated garlic, salt and olive oil;
- Spoon the mixture on to toasted bread.
The result is the Catalan version is lighter on the tomato and has a bit more garlic flavor. You can also get a great sense of the oil if you use a good one. The other version is more tomato-forward and also I guess easier to make at the table.
You can see how to make it both ways in the short video!
Either way, it would always be served for you to prepare yourself, as the longer the tomato is on the bread, the more it softens, so it is best to do it right before you eat it.
You can enjoy it just as it is, or often as a late breakfast/mid-morning snack or else serve it alongside other dishes. Sometimes you might have it as a side dish to tapas or a main meal instead of plain bread, or else it can be the base of a tapas by adding some ham or cheese on top.
Pan con tomate (or pa amb tomàquet) is such a classic Spanish tapas or side dish that you'll see everywhere in Spain and for good reason - it's a easy and delicious way to make the base of a sandwich, as a side to other tapas or just to snack on itself.
Try these other classic easy Spanish tapas:
- Spanish tortilla (tortilla Española)
- Healthier patatas bravas
- Blistered Padron peppers
- Gambas al ajillo (Spanish garlic shrimp)
- Plus learn more about what are tapas in my guide, and get more Spanish recipes in the archives.
Pan con tomate (Spanish tomato bread)
- 4 slices bread ('country style' or eg cross slices of a baguette)
- 1 clove garlic (small)
- 1 tomato
- ⅛ teaspoon salt (approx - more/less to taste)
- ½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (approx)
- For both versions, first toast the slices of bread until lightly brown.
- For Catalan version, peel the garlic but keep it whole and cut the tomato in half cross-wise. Rub the garlic over the toasted slices of bread, then rub with the cut side of the tomato. Sprinkle on a little salt and drizzle with oil.
- For central-Spanish version, finely grate or crush the garlic and grate the tomato. Put both in a small bowl with the salt and olive oil, mix then spoon over the toasted bread.
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