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Pesto Bread

Delicious Pesto Bread is a soft and fluffy homemade bread that has swirls of fragrant basil pesto throughout! It tastes a little bit cheesy, a little bit like summer and a whole lot like heaven!! 

Pesto bread that has been braided and sliced.
The flavor of this homemade Italian bread is so amazing!

It’s not as hard as it looks to make this braided pesto bread. In fact, even if the braid doesn’t work perfectly, the bread will still be beautiful. 

Bread baking has fascinated me since I first began baking many years ago. I was only 12 or 13 years old when I first tackled bread recipes. My love for breads – baking and eating them – has never waned. Focaccia is a favorite and my delicious collection of focaccia toppings means we never tire of it!

If you’ve never baked with yeast, then you’re in for a treat! Yeast baking takes time but only a short time is the hands on part. The rest of the time is fascinating watching the dough rise and have a life of its own.

Homemade pesto is amazing in this recipe but a good quality store bought version is almost just as good. Try my recipe for nut free pesto. It’s excellent to use in this Italian bread and you can make my easy pesto gnocchi with any leftovers.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients

The ingredients required to make this recipe viewed from above.
  • Active dried yeast – You can get this in most supermarkets and it has quite a good shelf life if stored correctly. If it’s old, throw it out and buy a fresh packet. Active dried yeast needs to be mixed with lukewarm water and a little sugar to wake it up.
  • Sugar – Just a little sugar helps the yeast come to life.
  • Lukewarm water – Be careful not to use hot water because this would kill the yeast. A temperature of between 105ºF to 115ºF (40ºC to 45ºC) is ideal. If you dip your finger in the water and it feels hot then it’s too hot.
  • Bread flour –  It’s important to use a flour that has a high protein and gluten content than regular all purpose flour. This is ideal for bread baking because the dough needs gluten to form a strong structure. Think of it like a building that needs good support. To measure, stir the flour to lighten before scooping into the measuring cups. Alternatively use kitchen scales for accuracy.
  • Salt – I use sea salt with no additives. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil – You could use regular olive oil or even light if that’s all you have.
  • Basil pesto – Good quality store bought pesto is fine but homemade is amazing!
  • Parmesan cheese – Freshly grated Parmesan cheese makes all the difference. Don’t buy the pre-grated cheese in the shaker containers (you know the one I mean). For the best flavor, go to the deli.

Variations

This recipe for basil pesto bread can be varied with a few changes of ingredients.

  • Add shredded mozzarella along with the parmesan for an extra cheesy pesto bread.
  • Use sun dried tomato pesto instead of basil pesto for something different.
  • Bake this bread in a loaf pan for a similar result to this Bacon and Cheese Bread. All you need to do is lightly grease and completely line a 8in(20cm) x 4in(10cm) loaf pan with non-stick parchment paper. Then ease the shaped dough into the prepared loaf pan. Allow the dough to rise then bake as directed in the recipe.

Instructions

Four step instructions on how to make the dough for this recipe.
  1. Mix the active dried yeast, sugar and ½ cup water in a stand mixer bowl. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.
  2. Add the flour, remaining water and salt and begin mixing on low. Knead for about 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Tip dough onto a floured surface and roll out to  approximately 17 inches (43 cm) x 12 inches (30 cm). 
  4. Spread pesto all over the surface avoiding 1 inch (2.5cm) along one of the long edges. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Roll up starting at the long edge that is covered in pesto. Roll towards the long edge that has no pesto. 
Four step instructions for how to shape this bread.
  1. Cut down the middle (press down with a long knife is the best way to cut; a sawing motion is difficult). 
  2. Open out the two halves so that the cut sides are up. Braid or twist the two lengths together keeping the cut side up. 
  3. Bring one end down to the other end, forming a “U” shape.
  4. Again braid the two braided lengths together.

Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet and allow to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.  While the pesto bread is proving (rising), preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Equipment

If you have a stand mixer, use it to prepare the dough as stated in the instructions. However it’s not essential and this dough can easily be prepared by hand. Check out the “Dough (without stand mixer)” section in the recipe card.

Tips for Success and FAQ’s

Braided bread on black wire rack viewed from above.
  • Depending on the weather (or lots of other factors), you may need to add a spoonful of flour if it seems a bit sticky. 
  • To ensure the dough rises well, cover the dough and place it in a warm place where there are no drafts 
  • After cutting the rolled up dough in half, press the top of the two pieces together. As you braid the dough, keep the cut side up. This is what makes the bread look so pretty.
  • Shaping this bread can be a bit messy and you have to work quickly before the cut dough falls apart. It’s helpful to have an extra set of hands to help you. While it looks like braided bread there are only two strands not three. The action is simply one strand being lifted over the other similar to braiding but with only two strands.
  • Don’t worry too much if the braid doesn’t seem to be working because it will be delicious even if it’s not perfect. 
  • Allow the bread to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Bread that hasn’t been allow to cool sufficiently can be gummy and sticky inside.
How do I tell if bread is done?

The best way to tell if the pesto bread is done is by looking at it. If it’s pale and looks undercooked, then most likely it is. It should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. It’s better to have slightly overcooked bread than uncooked, gummy bread.

Can this bread be frozen?

Yes! Allow to cool completely then wrap in two layers of  plastic wrap and pop into a zip lock bag. Freeze for up to three months.

What  can be made from pesto?

If you have leftover pesto it can be used in many ways. Pesto is delicious stirred through any pasta and is particularly good with homemade tagliatelle or gnocchi. Focaccia toppings can also be made from pesto.

How many calories in pesto bread?

Check out the recipe card below which contains nutritional information. 

Serving Suggestion

Sliced braided bread on wooden board viewed from above.

Basil Pesto Bread is so flavorsome that you could just enjoy thick slices as a snack. But my family says they love to have this Italian bread when I make butterflied roast chicken.

It’s also excellent with Mediterranean lentil soup or eggs in purgatory. Don’t forget to finish with dessert. This Chocolate Puff Pastry is so easy and quick.

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Sliced braided bread with pesto swirl.

Pesto Bread Recipe

A soft and fluffy homemade bread that has swirls of fragrant basil pesto throughout! Ideal with grilled or roasted meats, soups or pastas.
5 from 58 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings:10 thick slices
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ teaspoons active dried yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 3 ½ (455 grams) cups bread flour plus extra for kneading (See Note 1)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup basil pesto store bought or homemade
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

Dough (with stand mixer)

  • Mix the active dried yeast, sugar and ½ cup water in a stand mixer bowl. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.
  • Add the flour, remaining water, extra virgin olive oil and salt and begin mixing on low speed using the stand mixer. Knead for about 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add a spoonful of flour if it seems a bit sticky.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Dough (without stand mixer)

  • Mix the active dried yeast, sugar and ½ cup water in a large bowl. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes until frothy.
  • Add the flour, remaining water, extra virgin olive oil and salt and mix with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • Using a dough scraper or similar, scrape the dough out onto the work surface.
  • Knead for a good 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add a spoonful of flour if it seems a bit sticky.
  • Wash out the bowl and rub with a little extra olive oil. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it over so that all sides are oiled.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Shaping and baking the pesto bread

  • Line a large baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper.
  • Using a dough scraper or similar, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat and flatten the dough into an oblong shape with your hands.
  • Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to approximately 17 inches x 12 inches (43cm x 30 cm). You may need to dust the surface of the dough with a little bit of flour to prevent sticking.
  • Spread with pesto avoiding 1 inch (2.5cm) along one of the long edges. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
  • Roll up starting at the long edge that is covered in pesto. Roll towards the long edge that has no pesto.
  • Cut down the middle (press down with a long knife is the best way to cut; a sawing motion is difficult).
  • Open out the two halves so that the cut sides are up. Braid the two lengths together keeping the cut side up. The action is simply one strand being lifted over the other similar to braiding but with only two strands.
  • Bring one end down to the other end, forming a “U” shape.
  • Again braid the two braided lengths together.
  • Carefully transfer to the prepared baking sheet and allow to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
  • In the meantime, preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC.
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Notes

Notes
  1. To measure flour, stir to lighten before scooping into the measuring cups. Alternatively use kitchen scales for accuracy.
Tips for Success
  • Add a spoonful or two of extra flour is the dough is too sticky.
  • Yeast needs a warm, draught free place to activate and for the dough to rise.
  • Work quickly when braiding the dough. It will want to fall apart if left for too long.
For more information, read the tips and FAQ’s above.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 105kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 497mg | Potassium: 35mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 418IU | Vitamin C: 0.01mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 0.2mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

This post was originally published on February 27, 2014. It has been updated with new photos, more information and improved recipe. 

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Recipe Rating




17 Comments

    1. That’s great! It fills my heart to read comments like this. Sharing recipes so that you can cook food you love is exactly why I do this.

  1. 5 stars
    Made it for a potluck a few weeks ago and the raves were so positive that I’m making it for our family Easter gathering.
    I make most of my yeast baking overnight – both for convenience and because the flavours Are richer. This bread REALLY rises in the fridge overnight. Gets a little misshapen – which is fine. ❤️

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is absolute perfection. My spouse and I just ate half the bread in one sitting. He paired it with tomato while I added only a little turkey and swiss cheese. I’m going to now make this for everyone I know.

  3. 5 stars
    OMG! This is the best bread so far. I can’t stop making it now. Very easy to do, and simply delicious. It’s our favorite bread now. Nothing like the taste of homemade bread.

    1. Karen, I’m beyond thrilled that this is your favorite bread now! It’s so true…there’s nothing like the taste of homemade bread. Thank you for coming back to let me know.

  4. A dish of olive oil appears in the picture of the ingredients but it’s not listed in the recipe; then step 5 mentions “a little extra olive oil”. I’m confused — does any olive oil go into the bread itself, and if so, how much?

    1. Thank you for picking up the typo, Elizabeth. It gets included into the dough – just 1 tablespoon. I’ve updated the recipe to reflect this.

  5. 5 stars
    This was my first time preparing bread with yeast and I am pleased to say it turned out perfectly – pillowy soft and so flavorful with the addition of the pesto. I added some mozzarella as suggested because I’m a cheese fanatic. Soooo good!

  6. 5 stars
    This pesto bread is amazing! I never thought of putting pesto in bread but this was so delicious!

  7. Can’t wait to pair up this Pesto Bread with my pasta this coming weekend. Yum!:) I like how simple the ingredients are and the process of it. Thanks!:)

  8. 5 stars
    I love baking bread. Especially when I have dinner guests. This looks and sounds so delicious. It would be a hit in my house.