Giada De Laurentiis' savory 'Italian PB&J' is a game-changer

Giada De Laurentiis' Italian version of the  PB&J has rave reviews from her loyal Instagram following. "Even better than PB&J!!!!," writes one fan (notice the four exclamation points? We did). "My 9 year old begs me to make it," writes another. Before you go rushing to your cabinet to pull out of a jar of your favorite peanut butter, you should know that the Italian version of PB&Js shares only one ingredient with the American: bread (via Giadzy). And even then, Giada De Laurentiis doesn't suggest just any bread. Sorry, Wonder Bread lovers, but this recipe calls specifically for thick, one-inch slices of Italian rustic bread. 

But while the ingredients are not the same, the culture around the two bread-based snacks is. As Laurentiis' Giadzy website explains, "pane pomodoro" permeates the memories of grown Italians in the same way that PB&Js define the taste of American childhoods. Americans came home, running breathlessly from school busses, into kitchens where they hungered for peanut butter and jellies. Italians ran into kitchens, mouths watering for grilled bread topped with olive oil, salt, and juicy tomato.  

How to make pane pomodoro, the Italian version of a PB&J

Australian-Japanese food writer Emiko Davies, who's lived in Italy for over a decade, writes that pane pomodoro "doesn't need a recipe, it's more of a preparation, suited to your taste, to your memory." And really, who needs a recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? There are as many ways to make them as there are taste buds in a human mouth: a lot. But just as an Italian who's unfamiliar with American PB&J's might need to follow a recipe to make her first sandwich, it makes sense to follow Giada De Laurentiis' recipe when making your first pane pomodoro. 

Laurentiis' recipe goes like this. After brushing both sides of one-inch slices of Italian rustic bread with olive oil, grill them for 3 minutes per side, until golden brown. Then, take half of a ripe tomato and rub it (flesh-side down) onto both sides of your hot, grilled bread. Sprinkle it with salt and a bit of olive oil. It was as simple as that. You're done.  Davies suggests that you rub the bread "until it is stained pink." She also notes that grilling (or toasting your bread) is "entirely optional." And just like you can get creative with American PB&J's (have you tried adding Nutella or fresh fruits to your fillings?), you can go ahead and get fancy with your pane pomodoro. Davies suggests fresh basil, dried oregano, or garlic.  Are your stomachs rumbling yet?