Italian Bread

published Nov 17, 2021
Italian Bread Recipe

Sicilian bread is made even more delightful with the classic sesame seed ingredient.

Makes2 loaves

Prep10 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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Homemade Italian bread with sesame seeds, with some slices cut off, and a slice with butter on a white plate on the side
Credit: Tara Holland

Many types of bread fall under the “Italian bread” category. There’s crusty and airy ciabatta, which we all know and love. Focaccia, the olive-oil-rich bread studded with rosemary and flaky sea salt, has a chewy crust and spongy texture. Sicilian bread is made with semolina flour and topped with sesame seeds. There’s also civraxiu from Sardinia, pane Toscano, pane Pugliese, filone, friselle, panettone … the list of delectable Italian breads is endless.

Now, I am no expert in Italian bread — nor am I Italian. However, I do live in Brooklyn so I get the benefit of having fabulous Italian bakeries nearby and therefore have had my fair share of freshly baked Italian loaves. In my experience, a standard “Italian loaf” is usually made with yeasted dough and has a chewy crust and a light, soft center. It is generally made with a touch of sugar, without making it too sweet, and a little olive oil or milk (or both). The olive oil adds a subtle richness, and the milk adds a touch of flavor, compared to just using water.

My version involves a yeasted dough made with all-purpose flour and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds, inspired by Sicilian recipes. If you’d prefer a plain loaf, you can omit the sesame seeds and sprinkle the proved loaves with flour just before baking.

The Difference Between Italian Bread and Regular Bread

The main difference is that Italian bread will have the fats and sugar mentioned above, making it an enriched dough and yielding a tender crumb. Most white breads are made with just flour, water, yeast, and salt.

Credit: Tara Holland

How to Serve Italian Bread and What to Eat with It 

According to the talented food writer and Italian cookbook author Elizabeth Minchilli, there are actually 10 rules about eating bread in Italy. The following list of suggestions doesn’t abide by said rules, but we won’t tell if you won’t.

  • Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
  • Make bruschetta.
  • Serve alongside lasagna or any saucy pasta for dipping.
  • Toast for breakfast sandwiches.
  • Make

    a panini

  • Use for strata or bread pudding.
  • Make Texas toast.

Italian Bread Recipe

Sicilian bread is made even more delightful with the classic sesame seed ingredient.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 2 loaves

Nutritional Info


  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets

    active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 2 cups

    hot water

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil, plus more for the bowl

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt

  • 6 cups

    all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting and the baking sheets

  • 4 tablespoons

    sesame seeds, divided (optional)


  1. Heat 1/2 cup whole milk in a small saucepan over low heat until warm to touch (around 110℉), 1 to 2 minutes. (Alternatively, microwave the milk until warm, about 15 seconds.)

  2. Pour the warmed milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add 2 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast and 1/2 teaspoon of the granulated sugar and stir to combine. Let sit until foamy, 6 to 7 minutes.

  3. Heat 2 cups hot water in 30-second intervals in the microwave until hot to touch, but not boiling (about 130℉), 1 to 2 minutes. Add the water, 1/4 cup olive oil, the remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the mixer. Mixing with the dough hook on low speed, add 5 cups of the all-purpose flour and mix until a shaggy dough forms, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium, add the remaining 1 cup flour in 1/4-cup increments, and mix until a sticky, soft dough forms, about 5 minutes.

  4. Coat a large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough into the bowl and flip to coat in oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (like the microwave) until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper, then sprinkle lightly with flour.

  5. Punch a hole in the center of the dough. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface; it will still be soft to touch. If it feels too sticky to work with, sprinkle with a little flour. Divide the dough in half. Stretch and pat each half into a rectangle about 12 inches long and about 1/4-inch thick.

  6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, mold into your desired shape: Fold in the long edges of the rectangle to meet in the center to create a long oval shape, then roll up lengthwise like a jelly roll until a long sausage shape has formed. Alternatively, pull in the corners to meet to create a round boule shape. If you are not using sesame seeds, sprinkle the top of each loaf with 1 to 2 tablespoons flour.

  7. Transfer each loaf seam-side down onto a baking sheet. If using sesame seeds, brush the loaves liberally with water, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons sesame seeds onto each loaf. Using a serrated knife or a lame, slash 5 diagonal slices (about 1/4-inch deep) spaced evenly apart on the top of each loaf.

  8. Cover each baking sheet with a clean dish towel and let the loaves rise slightly, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 400ºF.

  9. Uncover the loaves and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the crust is deep golden-brown, about 10 minutes more. The bread is ready when you tap the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow. Let the loaves cool slightly before slicing.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Store the bread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 2 months.