Pa Amb Tomàquet

Ask any Brit to name their country's national dish and the answer is likely to be fish & chips, shepherd's pie or chicken tikka masala. Make the same enquiry of a Catalan and you'll be treated as if you came from another planet. Everyone, but everyone, recognises their national dish to be pa amb tomàquet (literally, bread with tomato). Although there's considerable dispute as to the origins of this ubiquitous peasant snack, the simple bruschetta-style combination of white bread, tomato, olive oil and salt is widely regarded as the epitome of Catalan cuisine. It may sound too simple to write up, but believe me it must be made properly. Catalans are very particular about the way to create this traditional dish.


1 white baguette
3-4 ripe summer tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon or other sea salt
Fuet, espetec or other salami


A fresh white baguette from the market or local bakerIn truth, there is no one official way of making pa amb tomàquet, no matter how angry a Barcelonan may be that Manresans use espetec instead of fuet as their meat. So here's my at-home attempt at this classical dish. I tried as best I could to make it in the traditional way that I was taught in a Barcelona kitchen, so I hope any Catalan readers won't be grossly offended if this English chef's pa amb tomàquet is not exactly the way they know it.

Start with a white baguette from your local baker (in my case from La Boqueria). Open it up by slicing in half as per usual for making a sandwich with a baguette. Then take some ripe tomatoes for rubbing into the fresh bread. Catalans use a special type of tomato which is grown only for the purpose of making pa amb tomàquet. They're not as vibrant in colour as a salad tomato, are smaller and slightly knobbly and are only ever used for spreading - never for slicing.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally (not through the eye), and have your olive oil and salt ready. Rub each tomato half into the bread - starting along the edges and rubbing into the centre - until nothing is left of the tomato in your hand but skin. You'll know when your bread is ready because the surface will be completely red, with seeds scattered all over.

The next stage is the olive oil, which you should drizzle with a generous hand so that the bread can absorb all of its flavour with the tomato. Then finally comes the salt, which must be sprinkled with great care as to achieve the correct and proper balance between the flavours of the dish. Be sure take your time and get it spot on. This is a dish that should be made at leisure, with absolutely no need to rush things.
Rubbing the tomato into the bread requires technique

Et voila! Perfect (Manresan) pa amb tomàquetFinally complete the dish with the cured meat of your choice. I used espetec here on the advice of my former flatmate (being from Manresa, he assured me this was the "proper" way). Barcelonas are more likely to use fuet. Now all that's left to do is to stand back and admire your beautiful creation. And when you've finished admiring it... eat it. "Bon profit!" as we say here in Catalunya.