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Italian Bread

My Grandma’s Italian Bread has the perfect crunchy, chewy crust and is so incredibly soft and delightful on the inside. This homemade bread is great out of the oven slathered with butter, as a side with your favorite pasta dinner, used for your panini sandwich at lunch, or even toasted for breakfast!

I grew up eating this bread at my grandparent’s house growing up so often that I honestly don’t remember a time when she didn’t have a loaf in her kitchen.

She made two loaves every other week, and would freeze the second so we could have it the following week. We ate it with her Chicken Cacciatore, Manhattan Clam Chowder, and with just about every dinner. However, my favorite way of eating it was right out of the oven completely smothered in butter!


What is Italian Bread?

Though bread is an important part of Italian cuisine, it’s important to note that there are many different varieties of Italian bread. As a general rule, traditional Italian bread is usually made with simple ingredients and tends toward savory flavors. You bake it in a very hot oven on a flat stone to create that perfect, crusty loaf.

Ingredients for Rustic Italian Bread 

This delicious recipe makes two loaves of bread. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own bread:

2 ¼ teaspoons of dry instant yeast (or 1 packet)

3 ½ cups warm water

8 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 tablespoon shortening

3 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup of hot water for baking

Equipment Needed

Besides the usual baking supplies, you’ll need a flat stone like a pizza stone and a broiler pan for steaming your bread. While you can substitute an inverted cookie sheet for the pizza stone, you really need the broiler pan or a similar metal pan (NOT glass!) as it goes in a very hot oven!

How to Make Italian Bread

Bread made with yeast requires a lot of time, so make sure you plan ahead. There are two rise times, plus the time you need for mixing and baking. It may seem like a long time, but the process goes quickly and is most definitely worth the wait!

First, place the active dry yeast in a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and pour the warm water over the yeast to dissolve. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to activate. Then add 3 cups of white flour, the shortening, salt, and sugar.

Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, then add the rest of the flour, beating until all the flour is incorporated and a sticky ball of dough forms.

Turn the bread dough out onto a lightly floured surface, dusting the top with flour to prevent sticking. Knead for about 7 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Don’t go crazy with the flour here; just use a teaspoon at a time.

Note: I often use the dough hook attachment on my mixer to knead the dough instead of doing it by hand.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then transfer it to a well-greased bowl. Turn the dough once to coat, then cover it lightly with a kitchen towel and let it rise for at least two hours.

Now, punch the dough down and divide it in half. Flour your hands and the surface as necessary, then form each half into a short, thick loaf and place them each on a sheet of parchment paper. Let both loaves rest for 40 minutes.

Baking the Italian Bread Loaves

Place a pizza stone or inverted baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack. Place the broiler pan or other metal pan on the lower rack. You’ll need this to hold the water for steaming when you bake the bread.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you’re using a baking stone, let it sit in the oven for 20 minutes before placing the loaves on top. If you have a metal baking sheet, it only needs to be in the oven for 10 minutes before you bake the bread.

Lightly dust the tops of the loaves with flour, then use a sharp knife to score an X into the top.

Place the parchment paper with a loaf of dough onto the baking stone in the oven. Pour one cup of water into the broiler pan, then quickly shut the oven door to contain the steam.

Bake for 24-28 minutes until the bread is golden brown. You can tell it’s done by tapping on the bottom; it should sound hollow.

Remove it from the oven, then repeat the process with the second loaf. Let the loaves cool before slicing for best results.

Tips for making Grandma’s Italian Bread Recipe

Be patient! This recipe is super easy to make, but there are times when the dough must both rest and rise. It can be a struggle, but it’s well worth the wait, believe me!

Divide the 3 cups of flour into a separate bowl. That way, you won’t have to take the time to re-measure when you’re adding it to the yeast mixture.

When I can’t find a warm enough spot in my house for the dough to rise, I turn my oven to bake at 170° while I mix and knead the dough, then turn it off. Then I put the dough in the warm oven. Warm (but not hot) temperatures help the dough rise.

I’ve had success both baking it on the pizza stone, as well as on a cookie sheet upside down. Both work well, but I just prefer the way it turns out on the cookie sheet best.

Listen for that hollow sound when you tap on the bottom to know that the loaves are completely baked. This is key. There have been many times that I’ve been impatient to bite into a slice that I’ve taken it out too early. The middle needs to be completely done and the hollow sound helps you identify its doneness without busting into the loaf. 

How to Store Leftover Bread

Your bread loaves should be wrapped and stored at room temperature. You can wrap it in aluminum foil or keep it in an airtight container. When properly stored, this bread should last for 2-3 days.

Can you freeze Italian Bread?

If you don’t devour both loaves in the first week (like I often do), you can freeze the second loaf. Wrap it up tightly in plastic wrap once it cools, and then again in aluminum foil. Then freeze for no more than three weeks.

What goes well with this bread?

There’s just something about making a loaf of homemade bread – the kneading, the baking. I just find it so comforting, don’t you?

Bread can turn any dish into a full meal. It’s so good alone or with a dipping oil like this Restaurant-Style Olive Oil and Balsamic Dipping Oil.

Put this loaf of bread on the table as a side for One-Pot Sausage Linguini or spaghetti with Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Slices of homemade bread are excellent with Pepperoni Pizza Pasta and Chicken Mozzarella Pasta, too. Try it with Stuffed ShellsChicken Piccata, or any Italian food! 

It is perfect for dipping into sauces and soups, too! We love eating it when I make this Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

My Favorite Bread Recipes

Next time you want to make some bread, try one of these delicious recipes:

Copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls

Corn Spoon Bread

English Muffin Bread

Asiago Herb Biscuits



Keep an eye out for more of my easy recipes each week!


Grandma’s Italian Bread

Grandma’s Italian Bread has the perfect crunchy, chewy crust and is perfectly soft on the inside. This homemade bread is great out of the oven spread with butter, with a pasta dinner or for breakfast! PLUS, this one recipe makes TWO loaves and it’s perfect for freezing or sharing with a friend.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Italian bread
Prep Time 20 minutes minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes minutes
Rising & Rest Time 2 hours hours 45 minutes minutes
Total Time 3 hours hours 33 minutes minutes
Servings 24 servings
Calories 158kcal
Author Lynne Feifer


2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast3 ½ cups warm water8 cups all-purpose flour divided1 tablespoon shortening3 teaspoons salt1 teaspoon sugar1 cup of hot water for baking


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the 3 1/2 cups warm water.
Add 3 cups flour and the shortening, salt and sugar.
Beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, then add the rest of the flour, beating until all flour is incorporated and a sticky dough ball is formed.
Turn out onto a floured surface, putting a little bit more flour on the top to prevent sticking.
Knead for about 7 minutes, adding as little flour as possible, but enough to prevent it from sticking.
Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a well-greased bowl.
Turn the dough over in the bowl once to get it coated.
Cover lightly with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for at least two hours.
Punch dough down.
Divide dough in half.
On a lightly floured surface and with floured hands, gently form it into a ball and place on a sheet of parchment. Do the same with the second half.
Let both loaves rest for 40 minutes.
Place a pizza stone in the oven on the middle shelf. On the lower rack, place the broiler pan or another metal pan. You will use this to hold the water during baking.
Preheat to 450° F. If you do not have a pizza stone, you can also use a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Allow the stone to sit in the oven for 20 minutes at 450° F before placing the dough on top of it. If using a baking sheet, only place it into the oven for 10 minutes prior to baking, not the 20 as with the pizza stone.
Lightly dust the top of the first loaf with flour and then, with a sharp knife, score an X into the top.
Place the dough with the parchment onto the pizza stone or upside down baking sheet in the oven.
Pour the one cup of water into the broiler pan. Quickly shut the oven door to contain the steam.
Bake for 24 – 28 minutes, until golden brown.
Do the same with the second loaf.
The loaves can be tested for doneness by tapping on the bottom. They should sound hollow.


This recipe makes two loaves.
Instead of using the dry yeast from a jar, you can also use 1 package of dry yeast which will yield you the amount needed.
For rising, I usually turn my oven to the lowest temperature and then turn it off before I place the dough into the oven to rise.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 294mg | Potassium: 47mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin C: 0.001mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 2mg

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