Easy Homemade Crusty Italian Bread Recipe

How to make homemade Italian crusty bread

Picture this: The moment you bite into this freshly baked Italian loaf, your gentle bite shatters the crust ever so satisfyingly. The crust, gloriously crisp, caramelized to a deep amber, is the perfect counterpoint to the soft, chewy interior that seems to melt on your tongue, releasing subtle hints of olive oil’s fruity richness.

Simple ingredients, elevated by time and heat – the nutty, slightly sweet flour, the kiss of salt, and the faint, earthy backnote of yeast.

Best part? This homemade crusty bread, also known as Pane Casereccio is super easy to make – no need for a bread machine!

How to Make Crusty Italian Bread

Here’s what you need for this recipe:

  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110°F/45°C)
  • Olive oil for coating

Alternative Ingredients:

  • Flour – Half bread flour and half wheat flour, gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
  • Yeast – Instant yeast (same amount and mixed directly with the dry ingredients), fresh yeast (2.5 times the amount of dry yeast)
  • Sugar – Honey, maple syrup 
  • Salt – Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Water – Milk, plant-based milk
  • Oil – Vegetable oil, melted butter, coconut oil

Toppings or Mix-ins:

  • Sesame seeds 
  • Poppy seeds
  • Dried rosemary or other herbs mixed into the dough or sprinkled on top 
  • Walnuts

 

Step-by-Step Instructions how to make Crusty Italian Bread

Note: If you’re using instant yeast, you may skip the first step and just add the yeast to the dry ingredients along with the rest of the ingredients. 

Step 1 – Activate Yeast: Use a small bowl to dissolve the sugar in warm water, then sprinkle the yeast over it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes – or until it’s frothy. 

Step 2 – Combine Dry Ingredients: Take a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour and salt. 

Step 3 – Make the Dough: Once the yeast is active and frothy, pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture – use a wooden spoon or your hands until you form a shaggy dough.

Step 4 – Knead the Dough: Once the dough is mixed, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic – if you have a stand mixer with dough hooks, use those on low speed for about 7 minutes.

Step 5 – First Rise: Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl that you have oiled and turn the dough once in it to coat it in oil. Then cover it with a damp cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size. 

Step 6 – Shape and Second Rise: Punch the risen dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface – if you want to add any mix-ins, such as nuts, you’d add them into this as you’re shaping it and kneading into layers. Once done, shape it into a round loaf or an elongated baguette shape (torpedo shape) and add any toppings now as well – let it rise again for 30 minutes.

Step 7 – Preheat oven: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to  475°F (245°C)  

Tip: if you want a crispy crust, put a cast-iron pan or metal pan in the bottom rack while preheating it, the steam creates that crispy crust.

Step 8 – Score the Dough: Right before putting it in the oven, make a few slashes about 1/4-inch deep across the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or a bread lame.

Step 9 – Bake with Steam: Slide the loaf onto the baking sheet (dutch oven is good too) and carefully pour a cup of hot water into the heated pan on the bottom rack to create steam – then close the oven door quickly and let it bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Lastly, before cutting into it to enjoy it, let it cool off at room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing – that way you’ll have a perfect crust and texture!

Expert Tips

  • When proofing the yeast, make sure the water is warm, but not too hot – shoot for 110°F/45°C). If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast, while if it’s too cool it won’t activate at all.
  • As you’re kneading the dough, look for a smooth and elastic texture – look for the “windowpane test” – when you’re stretching some dough between fingers and it becomes so thin that it transmits light without tearing.
  • For that pan on the bottom of the oven, place some warm water into it or ice cubes to create the steam.
  • Consider buying a baking stone if you bake frequently as this mimics a bread oven environment.
  • If the crust becomes soft, reheat the bread in a 350°F (175°C) oven for about 5-10 minutes to re-crisp the crust, alternatively, you can also throw it in the airfryer for 5 minutes on the bake function. 

What Dishes to Make With This Homemade Italian Bread Recipe

Fresh homemade bread is always amazing, but what if you want to make more recipes with it?

Here are some suggestions on how you can use this recipe!

  • Bruschetta – Toasted bread slices with tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a classic Italian appetizer.
  • Panini – Use the bread for pressed sandwiches filled with meats, cheeses, and vegetables.
  • Garlic Bread – Mix butter, minced garlic, and parsley, spread on the bread, and bake until golden.
  • Crostini – Slice thinly, toast, and top with a variety of toppings like pâté, cheese, or smoked salmon for elegant hors d’oeuvres.
  • French Toast – Soak thick bread slices in a mixture of egg, milk, and cinnamon, then fry for a decadent breakfast treat

How to Make Homemade Panzanella Salad (Bread Salad)

This delicious bread salad is so easy to make!

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 cups crusty Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (use day-old bread for best results)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into half-moons
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for toasting bread
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional additions: capers, olives, roasted red peppers, mozzarella balls (bocconcini), or anchovies

How to Make It:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Toss the bread cubes with a little olive oil and spread them on a baking sheet – once the oven is hot, toast it for 10-15 minutes or until golden and slightly crisp. 
  3. Let the freshly toasted bread cool off.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
  5. Optional: To make the red onions softer, marinate the slices in the vinaigrette for 10 minutes before mixing everything.
  6. Take a large bowl and combine the toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion (with vinaigrette if you marinated them).
  7. Add some vinaigrette over the salad and toss it well, so everything is coated in it. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, so the bread can absorb all the flavors.
  8. Stir some fresh basil, seasonings, and anything else your heart desires into the salad – enjoy!

Crusty Italian Bread Recipe - Homemade Panzanella salad bread recipe

How to Make Homemade Bread Pudding

This delicious recipe is perfect for any occasion!

Basic ingredients:

  • 6 cups of crusty Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • Optional: Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Optional: Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place the bread cubes in the prebaked baking dish and sprinkle with raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
  3. Use a large mixing bowl and whisk together eggs, milk, heavy cream, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt until it’s well combined.
  4. Pour the custard mixture over the bread cubes and press it into it, so it’s well coated in the custard mix – then let it sit for about 15-20 minutes, so the bread can fully soak it in (press it into the mix occasionally).
  5. Bake the soaked bread pieces in the oven for about 45-50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center is set.
  6. Once done, take it out of the oven and let it cool off slightly before serving it – serve while it’s still hot for the best flavor!

Lastly, consider dusting some powdered sugar on top and maybe garnish with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side – super delicious!

lasagna 4 pack

Frequently Asked Questions about Homemade Italian Bread Recipe

Here are some frequently asked questions we receive, if you don’t find an answer, feel free to comment below!

What makes Italian bread different?

Besides the absolutely amazon taste, Italian bread is characterized by its crisp crust and soft, airy interior. It also often has olive oil in it, which makes the flavor and texture so distinct. 

Can I make Italian bread without a stand mixer?

Yes! Using a stand mixer will just make the kneading easier, however, if you don’t have one, you can just knead the dough by hand, which will take a bit longer but is just as effective.

Why is my Italian bread not crusty?

If your Italian bread didn’t turn out crusty, then it may be that there wasn’t enough steam during the baking process, it didn’t bake long enough, or the oven door was opened too many times. Make sure you put water in the bottom of the oven, so it produces steam to make the crust crispy.

How can I store homemade Italian bread to keep it fresh?

To keep Italian bread fresh longer, store it in a paper bag at room temperature for 1-2 days – make sure to avoid plastic bags as they make the crust soft. If you’re not planning to eat the bread anytime soon, consider wrapping it and freezing for up to 3 months.

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How to make homemade Italian crusty bread

Easy Homemade Crusty Italian Bread Recipe


  • Author: Anna Dykeman

Ingredients

Scale

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 packet (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water (about 110°F/45°C)
  • Olive oil for coating

Alternative Ingredients:

  • Flour – Half bread flour and half wheat flour, gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
  • Yeast – Instant yeast (same amount and mixed directly with the dry ingredients), fresh yeast (2.5 times the amount of dry yeast)
  • Sugar – Honey, maple syrup 
  • Salt – Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Water – Milk, plant-based milk
  • Oil – Vegetable oil, melted butter, coconut oil

Toppings or Mix-ins:

  • Sesame seeds 
  • Poppy seeds
  • Dried rosemary or other herbs mixed into the dough or sprinkled on top 
  • Walnuts

Instructions

Note: If you’re using instant yeast, you may skip the first step and just add the yeast to the dry ingredients along with the rest of the ingredients. 

  1. Activate Yeast: Use a small bowl to dissolve the sugar in warm water, then sprinkle the yeast over it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes – or until it’s frothy. 
  2. Combine Dry Ingredients: Take a large mixing bowl and whisk together the flour and salt. 
  3. Make the Dough: Once the yeast is active and frothy, pour it into the bowl with the flour mixture – use a wooden spoon or your hands until you form a shaggy dough.
  4. Knead the Dough: Once the dough is mixed, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic – if you have a stand mixer with dough hooks, use those on low speed for about 7 minutes.
  5. First Rise: Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl that you have oiled and turn the dough once in it to coat it in oil. Then cover it with a damp cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size. 
  6. Shape and Second Rise: Punch the risen dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface – if you want to add any mix-ins, such as nuts, you’d add them into this as you’re shaping it and kneading into layers. Once done, shape it into a round loaf or an elongated baguette shape (torpedo shape) and add any toppings now as well – let it rise again for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to  475°F (245°C)
    Tip: if you want a crispy crust, put a cast-iron pan or metal pan in the bottom rack while preheating it, the steam creates that crispy crust.
  8. Score the Dough: Right before putting it in the oven, make a few slashes about 1/4-inch deep across the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or a bread lame.
  9. Bake with Steam: Slide the loaf onto the baking sheet (dutch oven is good too) and carefully pour a cup of hot water into the heated pan on the bottom rack to create steam – then close the oven door quickly and let it bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Lastly, before cutting into it to enjoy it, let it cool off at room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing – that way you’ll have a perfect crust and texture!

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