It’s healthy, easy and quick to prepare, low-cost, handy, it can be combined with many things and, above all, it’s so delicious . It’s Pa amb Tomàquet (Bread with Tomato), the most popular and traditional dish in Catalonia. It is as simple as cutting a tomato in half, spreading its juice on top of a bread slice and dressing it with salt and olive oil. So simple and so tasty!
Pa amb tomàquet combines four basic ingredients of the Mediterranean diet and that’s why we can find similar dishes other Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece. The origin of Pa amb Tomàquet is disputed, but a widely accepted version is the one that dates the origins in the end of the XIX century, which associates an abundant tomato harvest with the need to soften up dry bread to reuse it.
If you ask a Catalan for a his or her favorite dish, many would say Pa amb Tomàquet. You might think it is a far too simple dish but, most of the times, when we say: I had Pa amb Tomàquet for dinner, we mean the tomato spread on the bread accompanied by some ham or other cured sausages, cheese, anchovies or some peppers previously cooked in the oven (what we call Escalivada). And it also combines perfectly with a Tortilla (potato omelette). Usually, we also previously toast the bread and, if it is toasted directly from the heat of a fire place, then it tastes even better. A variation of the simplest Pa amb Tomàquet is one with also garlic spread on the bread. So, a table laid for the traditional Pa amb Tomàquet meal but look like this: toasted bread, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and cured sausages.
Nowadays, you can order Pa amb Tomàquet in absolutely every bar and restaurant in the Catalan territory. There is no sandwich (or entrepà, as we call it) which is not prepared with with tomato spread on the bread. It would be crazy and untasty for a Catalan to eat a cured suasage sandwich without tomato and oil. And, everywhere we go, we look for some bread and some tomatoes to prepare our homemade sandwiches. Pa amb Tomàquet is also served in the finest restaurants as a side dish. The best bread, combined with the finest tomatoes and the most exquisite olive oil make an absolute outstanding dish. An essential tip if you want to prepare it at home is not to use common tomatoes, but a special variety of tomatoes on the vine which are juicier and riper and don’t use any other oil except olive oil.
Pa amb Tomàquet is not only a dish, it’s a distinctive part of Catalan gastronomy and culture. Most probably, if you meet a Catalan, he or she will eventually explain you what Pa amb Tomàquet is and will try to make you try it. And, when traveling around the world, if you ever see someone spreading tomato on top of a bread slice, you will definitively know he or she is Catalan.