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Easy Homemade Italian Bread

This Easy Homemade Italian Bread with its soft, slightly chewy and flavorful interior and golden-brown crust is perfect paired with any meal. It’s also great for making sandwiches, garlic bread, toast, and lots more!

Italian bread is one of the easiest and most delicious breads to make at home (you don’t even need a mixer). It’s way better than any store-bought bread I’ve ever had, and nothing beats a slightly warm, freshly-baked slice slathered with butter!

If you’re new to making homemade bread, this is a great recipe to get started with because it’s so easy, takes hardly any effort, and the results are amazing. You’ll feel like a kitchen rock star!

There’s only 7 ingredients, which you might already keep on hand: bread flour, olive oil, sugar, salt, yeast, water, and egg white. And if you don’t, I highly recommend it so that you can bake up a loaf any time you want.

The hands-on time for making this Italian bread is less than 10 minutes total. That’s for mixing the dough and giving it a quick knead by hand and then shaping it into a loaf.

The rest of the time is hands-off and is for rising and baking, so you can go about doing other things in the meantime.

And guess what? It’s just as easy to make two loaves of this delicious Italian bread as it is to make one, so you can absolutely double the recipe and split the dough in half for another loaf to use now or later (it freezes really well).

Let’s get right to it!

a whole loaf of easy homemade Italian bread on a wire cooling rack with a white kitchen towel on the side

Ingredients You Need

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card at the end of the post.

  • Bread flour
  • Water
  • Olive oil (I recommend using regular or light; the flavor of extra-virgin can be too strong)
  • Instant yeast (also called rapid rise, quick rise, fast-rise, or bread machine yeast)
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Egg white (gives the crust a shiny golden-brown color)

Note: The above video is just a brief overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card at the end of the post for the full printable recipe with ingredient amounts and detailed instructions.

Recipe Tips & Tidbits:

  • This bread is at its absolute best when freshly baked and mostly cooled but still just a little warm and when the crust is slightly crisp. The crust will soften over time and after is it wrapped (but, even so, it’s still very delicious)!
  • Always check that expiration date on your yeast!
  • Be sure to use instant yeast and not active dry yeast. They are not interchangeable in this recipe.
  • When kneading and shaping the dough, don’t use a lot of flour; only use as much as is needed so that the dough doesn’t stick. If too much flour is added to the dough, the bread can end up dense.
  • Rising times given in the recipe are a guideline only. Actual times can vary depending on the temperature of your house, so always go by the size of the risen dough.
  • The bread is done when the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. If you want to take its temperature, it should be between 195°F and 210°F in the center. An instant-read thermometer will give you the most accurate result.

Substitutions & Variations

  • All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour. Bread flour gives you a slightly chewier result.
  • Vegetable oil, avocado oil or another neutral-tasting oil can be used instead of olive oil.
  • You can skip the egg white wash if you want, but I find that the bread ends up pretty pale in color (you need to expect this and be careful not to over-bake the bread trying to get a darker color). It will also have a dull rather than shiny crust.
  • Like sesame seeds on your Italian bread? Sprinkle some on after brushing the unbaked loaf with the egg wash.
close up of a loaf of cut Italian bread on a wooden cutting board

Storing and Freezing

Storing

If you’re not going to enjoy this bread shortly after baking or if you have leftovers, wrap the cooled bread tightly with plastic wrap or put it in a sealed bag or airtight container and store it at room temperature for up to a day or two tops.

Because homemade bread tends to lose its freshness rather quickly, I actually recommend freezing what you don’t plan to eat the day you make it (and the sooner the better to maintain the freshest taste and texture).

Freezing

To freeze a whole loaf: Once cooled, wrap the loaf tightly with plastic wrap and then wrap it with foil or put it in a large freezer bag and freeze.

To freeze slices: Wrap each slice in plastic wrap (for extra protection against freezer burn) and then put the slices in a freezer bag. I love freezing bread in slices because I can pull out only the amount I need at any particular time.

When well-wrapped, the bread can last for several months in the freezer. But for the best results, I recommend using it within a month or two. Just thaw and enjoy!

2 slices of homemade Italian bread, one with butter on it and a bite taken out of it, on a napkin in front of a loaf of bread on a cutting board and a small dish of butter on the side

What to Serve with Homemade Italian Bread

What not to serve with it…that is the question. It goes with just about anything and everything!

Of course, it’s a perfect match for any Italian dinner because it’s excellent for soaking up sauces. Here are a few of my Italian favorites (but it’s just as good with any meal!):

I also love pairing it with soup and/or salad for a simple lunch or a lighter supper. Check out my soup recipes page and my salad recipes page for lots of great options.

And don’t forget that you can just enjoy it simply with some butter, flavored dipping oil, peanut butter and/or jelly…whatever you like on your bread!

2 slices of homemade Italian bread on a white napkin, one buttered and with a bite taken out of it, with a loaf of bread on a cutting board in the background and a small dish of butter on the side

Other Uses for Homemade Italian Bread

I hope you try this Easy Homemade Italian Bread recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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Other Homemade Bread Recipes to Try

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

a loaf and 2 slices of homemade Italian bread on a wooden cutting board with a bread knife on the side

Easy Homemade Italian Bread

This Easy Homemade Italian Bread with its soft, slightly chewy and flavorful interior and golden-brown crust is perfect paired with any meal. It's also great for making sandwiches, garlic bread, toast, and lots more!
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Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising and Cooling Time: 2 hours 24 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 4 minutes
Servings: 1 loaf (about 16 slices, approximately ½-inch thick)
Estimated Calories: 78

Ingredients

  • cups bread flour
  • 1 cup warm water, 110°F to 115°F
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for oiling the bowl and baking sheet (I use regular or light-tasting olive oil)
  • teaspoons instant yeast
  • teaspoons sugar
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Instructions

  • Place the bread flour, water, olive oil, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large bowl; stir until a ball of dough forms.
    The mixture will seem a little dry and shaggy at first, but keep stirring; the flour will absorb the water, and it will come together.
    When the ball forms, the dough won't be very smooth, and it shouldn't be sticky. It should hold together well and not be too dry or crumbly or too wet and loose. If needed, add water or flour, just a little at a time and stirring well after each addition, to reach the desired consistency.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead it a few times by hand to smooth it out a bit, and then form it into a ball.
    To knead dough: Push the dough down and away from you with the heel of your hand. Grab the edge of the dough that's farthest away from you and fold it over in half towards you. Repeat, occasionally turning the dough 45 degrees.
  • Lightly oil the bowl that you mixed the dough in (first clean out any loose leftover bits); place the dough ball in the oiled bowl and turn it to coat all sides.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place that is free from drafts until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press it out into a 12×7-inch rectangle.
  • Starting on one of the long ends, roll up the dough to form a 12-inch long loaf.
  • Pinch together all seams (both the long seam and the ends), then place the dough seam side down and gently shape the loaf with your hands, making it evenly wide along the length and rounded on the ends.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet (15×10-inch or larger) and place the loaf on the oiled sheet, seam side down.
  • Cover the loaf with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place that is free from drafts until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • While you are waiting for the loaf to rise, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • After the loaf has risen, lightly brush the top and sides with the beaten egg white (you probably won't need to use it all).
  • Using a very sharp knife, cut three diagonal slits in the top of the loaf (don't go very deep, no more than about ⅛ of an inch).
  • Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
    To check for doneness by temperature: the loaf is done when the internal temperature at the center is between 195°F and 210°F (use an instant-read thermometer for the most accurate results).
  • Place the bread on a wire rack to cool.
    Don't slice the bread while it is still hot. If you want to enjoy it warm, wait until it is almost completely cool but still just slightly warm.

Notes

  • This bread is at its absolute best when freshly baked and mostly cooled but still just a little warm and when the crust is slightly crisp. The crust will soften over time and after is it wrapped (but, even so, it’s still very delicious)!
  • Be sure to use instant yeast and not active dry yeast. They are not interchangeable in this recipe.
  • When kneading and shaping the dough, don’t use a lot of flour; only use as much as is needed so that the dough doesn’t stick. If too much flour is added to the dough, the bread can end up dense.
  • Rising times given in the recipe are a guideline only. Actual times can vary depending on the temperature of your house, so always go by the size of the risen dough.
  • Estimated calories shown is for 1 slice of bread (based on 16 slices per loaf).
Did you try this recipe? I’d love to see it!Share it on Instagram, tag @nowcookthis and use the hashtag #nowcookthisrecipes. Thanks!

This post was updated on 2/21/24; the water temperature was reduced to a range of 110°F to 115°F.

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