While there are infinite crostini toppings, this recipe nestles tender cubes of roasted squash over creamy ricotta cheese and tops it off with crispy fried sage leaves.
It’s Christmas week, and you’ve almost survived the most hectic month of the year. There’s still New Year’s, of course, and surely another holiday party or two to get through, but it’s the home stretch. It’s crazy that we cram so many get-togethers into the span of a few weeks, making what should be a fun time a bit chaotic and stressful. Can’t we extend the celebration into January, the bleakest and most uneventful time of year?
We can coast through the last couple of weeks of mayhem with one of my favorite apps: crostini. Even if your host didn’t specify to bring food to the party, contributing something is always the polite thing to do as a guest. This is especially true if you know your host isn’t so great at supplying enough food or that the snacks are little more than a bowl of cheese puffs. Hey, we’ve all been there. Crostini are easy enough that they won’t put you out much in terms of time or effort. Because really, it’s just toast.
Of course, you don't need an excuse to make crostini. Party or not. If you have yourself a baguette and good idea for topping, go for it and have some fancy toasts for dinner.
what are crostini?
Crostini, translated from Italian, means “little toasts,” and they’re the most versatile appetizer you could make. How so? Because how you customize your little toasts is entirely up to you. Even if you only top them with some melted cheese, sauteed garlic, and fresh herbs, you’re likely still to impress. You really can’t go wrong when it comes to crostini toppings.
This appetizer always starts with a quality baguette. You know, the long, thin, crusty French bread you can find at your local bakery or the bakery section of any grocery store. You want to slice your baguette into ¼ inch slices. I find that one typical baguette gives me about 30-35 toasts.
how to make crostini
Brush both sides of the toasts with olive oil. The oil helps to both brown the toasts as they bake in the oven and also, I’ve found, helps to lock in the crispness of the bread. I prefer brushing the oil instead of just drizzling it over to ensure that I’ve coated all of the toasts evenly.
Bake your crostini on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Then flip the toasts over and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon how brown you’d like them. I’ve seen recipes that say to toast the crostini under the broiler rather than by baking, but with my luck, they’d end up burnt. Trust me; you don’t want to make this difficult and find yourself scraping off the burnt layer of toast of 30 or more little pieces of bread. I've been there and don't recommend it.
can you make crostini ahead of time?
You now have the base for any kind of crostini ready to go. The good news is that you can do this part two to three days in advance of your party. By toasting, you’ve dried out the moisture in the bread, so it’s not going to go soft on you if stored properly. Keep the toasts in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag until ready to use. Though the downside of preparing these in advance is that you might eat them all before the party. So maybe grab a second baguette from the bakery while you're there.
On the day of the party, assemble your crostini. Don’t do this too far in advance – definitely not before the day of – or you will find your beautifully crispy crostini will have become a disappointing soggy mess. That’s not to say you can’t have your toppings ready to go, though. In the case of the butternut squash crostini recipe, feel free to roast the squash up to a few days in advance.
Wondering what to put on top of your crostini? Cheese. Cheese is always the answer. A soft cheese would make for a nice base, like one of those garlic and herb spreads you can find in little tubs. Goat cheese works, if that’s your kind of thing. Ricotta is another, as is cream cheese or a piece of cheese that you can quickly melt on the toasts under the broiler, such as brie.
Personally, I love the combination of cubes of roasted butternut squash set over a spoonful of soft ricotta cheese topped off with some crispy fried sage and maybe a few toasted pepitas. While that recipe is below, here are a couple of other ideas. But honestly, just start with a look through your fridge. Between leftovers and condiments, you probably have a few crostini toppings ready to go.
fig and bacon crostini
Halve or chop some dried figs, then simmer them in red wine with some honey and star anise or cinnamon sticks for 10 minutes. Drain. Arrange the figs on crostini slices that have been covered with a piece of soft, spreadable cheese. Then sprinkle cooked, crumbled bacon over the top. (Do you also love figs? Try my homemade fig bar recipe.)
Nutella and marshmallow crostini
Who said crostini couldn’t be sweet? Spread the toasts with a spoonful of Nutella, top with mini marshmallows then briefly place under the broiler until melted and toasted.Print