This made-from-scratch Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread has a crunchy crust and soft, fluffy interior. Loaded with basil pesto and tons of melted cheese, this is sure to be a family favorite!
Table of contents
Cheesy Pesto Garlic Breadsticks
I'm extremely picky when it comes to sharing savory baking recipes; so you can absolutely trust me when I say that this homemade cheesy pesto garlic bread is worth the effort.
The bread base is a hybrid of my small batch focaccia recipe from my second cookbook and the pizza crust recipe from my favorite Detroit-style pizza; it yields a garlic bread that's both crunchy on the outside and unbelievably fluffy on the inside. And do you know what happens when you add basil pesto, minced garlic, and shredded mozzarella to that bread? Magic, my friend. Magic is what happens.
Ingredients Notes & Substitutions
This cheesy pesto garlic bread is insanely easy to make and doesn't require a ton of ingredients. Here's what you'll need:
- Bread flour: Bread flour helps us achieve a crust that's crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. If you only have all-purpose flour on hand, you can use that instead... just know that you'll be missing out on some of the texture.
- Instant Yeast: Use quick rise/instant yeast to help the bread rise faster. You can use active dry yeast, but the final rise time will take a little longer.
- Fine Sea Salt: Salt helps control the yeast.
- Water: To make our high-hydration dough!
- Oil: To add a supple fat to the crust. I've tested both olive oil and corn oil and both yielded delicious results, so use whatever you prefer!
- Garlic: This is garlic bread after all... The recipe calls for 6-8 cloves of garlic as I felt that was a happy medium when testing this recipe. However, if you're a garlic lover, feel free to use up to an entire head of garlic!
- Cheese: Use a cheese that’s flavorful and melts well, but that won’t waterlog the dough. I used freshly grated low moisture mozzarella (which you can usually find in the refrigerated cheese section of your grocery store); but the regular bagged mozzarella works well too! I also grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top before and after baking the cheesy bread!
- Basil Pesto: Feel free to make your own fresh pesto sauce from scratch, if that's your thing! Your favorite jarred pesto will work just fine too.
How to Make the Best Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.
- Pour in the warm water and oil and mix it all together until combined. Knead for 3-4 minutes.
- In a small cup, combine the minced garlic and olive oil then set aside.
- Pour a tablespoon of oil into an 8×8-inch (20x20-cm) baking pan and spread it around. Add the dough to the center and top with a third of the garlic mixture. Using your fingers, press dimples into the dough. Set your timer for 15 minutes and cover the dough with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel.
- At the 15-minute mark, return back to the dough, and continue dimpling the dough using your fingers, working it closer to the edge of the pan. Top with half of the remaining garlic mixture then set your timer again for 15 minutes and cover it once more.
- At the 15-minute mark, return back to the dough, and dimple it until the dough reaches the edges and the corners. Add the remaining garlic mixture then cover it and allow to rise for 1 hour.
- Once the dough has risen, add the pesto in an even layer then top it with the cheese. (For a super photogenic cheesy garlic bread, reserve about a tablespoon of the pesto to dollop on top of the cheese).
- Transfer to a preheated oven and bake for 11-13 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then slide it onto a large cutting board.
Serving, Storage, & Reheating
Serving: This cheesy pesto garlic bread tastes best when served warm. If you need to keep it warm while waiting on the rest of your meal to finish cooking, set your oven at the lowest possible temperature and slide the garlic bread, still in its pan, onto the middle rack.
Storage: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Leftovers can also be individually wrapped in plastic wrap surrounded by tin foil and then frozen for up to 2 months.
Reheating: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C), line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and arrange the slices on top. Mist or drizzle a bit of water (to add moisture) and cover loosely with foil. Bake until hot and melty, about 15-20 minutes.
Recipe Troubleshooting & FAQ
Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour for the dough?
Yes, you technically can… BUT it won't yield the same results bread flour will. For my food science lovers, the high-gluten content in bread flour delivers that supreme, crispy-crunchy outer crust while still keeping that soft and chewy center we all love. I say it's worth it to splurge on a bag of bread flour; you're definitely going to make this cheesy garlic bread more than once!
Why is my dough extremely sticky and difficult to work with?
Dough that is too sticky is a very common problem but it is actually really easy to fix! Sticky dough is almost always caused by a dough that is too hydrated. This basically means that you have added too much water (or not enough flour) to your dough. The fix is simply incorporating a little bit more flour!
Do take note, however, that this is a high hydration dough (around 83%) which helps to create a lighter, airier bread. So be careful to not add too much flour! The dough should be sticky/tacky; covering your fingers in olive oil while dimpling the dough will help you manage the dough better.
Why is this recipe in grams?
I post my recipes in grams as it’s the most accurate way to bake and it’s how I develop them; cups are not only inaccurate but they vary in volume worldwide! In any event, if you look at the recipe card underneath the ingredients list, you can click “US Customary” and it’ll convert to volume measures!
Cheesy Pesto Garlic Bread
For the Bread:
- 150 g all-purpose flour
- 7 g instant dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 125 g water warm (about 120°F (48°C))
- 7 g olive oil
For the Toppings:
- 6-8 garlic cloves minced
- 28 g olive oil plus more as needed
- 65 g basil pesto
- 113 g shredded mozzarella
- 28 g grated parmesan
- Italian parsley optional
- In a medium bowl, combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and oil, and mix with a spatula until a shaggy dough forms and there are no dry parts. The dough will be wet and sticky; this is normal!
- Knead on a lightly floured surface until elastic, about 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the dough back to the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, combine the minced garlic and olive oil in a small cup.
- Drizzle an 8 x 8-inch (20 x 20-cm) nonstick baking pan with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Turn the dough out into the pan and turn it to fully coat it in the oil. Top the dough with about one-third of the minced garlic mixture and gently spread and shape the dough into a rough square shape by pressing it down and dimpling the surface with your oiled fingers. The dough won't reach the edges of the pan at this time. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Uncover the dough and add another third of the garlic mixture. Continue dimpling and stretching the dough out with your fingertips. It should be more than halfway to the edges by now. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 15 more minutes.
- Return to the dough and add the remaining garlic mixture. Dimple and stretch the dough, using extra oil on your hands as needed, until it reaches the edges and corners of the pan. Cover the pan and allow to rise for 1 hour. This will be the last rise required!
- Position an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
- Remove the plastic wrap from your dough and, if necessary, coax any dough back into the corners of the pan. Add dollops of the pesto sauce on top of the dough, and gently spread it into an even layer using the back of a spoon. Be careful not to deflate the dough too much! Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and half of the parmesan cheese evenly on top of the pesto layer.
- Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges are a deep golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbling on top. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese and chopped parsley on top and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove it to a cutting board.
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