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Pesto Bread

For those of you fortunate enough to have a lot of basil in your garden right now, this is a perfect summer bread.  I make fresh bread almost every day for my family using this super easy method but once in a while it's nice to stuff the bread with a savory filling.

When I make this, I don't really use a hard and fast recipe for the pesto, but I've written one up for you.  Pesto is so easy - a big handful of fresh basil, a garlic clove, a little scoop of pine nuts and some grated cheese and olive oil.  Make it into a paste by either chopping by hand (I like my mezzaluna) or whirling it all up in your food processor.  I do like doing it by hand sometimes because the texture has such a rustic feel to it.  The food processor, or course, is much faster.  No time to make pesto?  Use a store bought version and you'll still have a very tasty bread.  

Pesto Bread


for a printable recipe, click here

Remember that for this bread, everything is flexible when it comes to the ingredient quantities.  The amount of bread dough is approximate.  The ingredients in the pesto are flexible - if you really like pine nuts, just add a little more. The amount of pesto you want to put in the bread dough is up to you.  I have actually doubled the pesto amount and baked it in bread.  It makes it a little harder to shape the loaf so that there is no pesto coming out, so I have halved the amount of pesto for you in this version.  If some pesto leaks out during baking, don't worry too much about it.  The bread will still taste great. 

You can make the pesto by hand for a more rustic texture or use a food processor.



For the bread dough:

Bread dough, about 1 pound (the size of a large grapefruit).  I use the Artisan No-Knead Bread Dough.

For the pesto: 

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 ounce Parmigianno Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 


By hand with a knife or mezzaluna:   Place the garlic clove and about half of the pine nuts along with half of the basil leaves on your cutting board.  With a very sharp knife or mezzaluna, start chopping everything up. Keep scraping your mixture up with your knife and chopping.  Add more of the pine nuts and basil until it is all added. Add the cheese and olive oil and mix until well blended.

With a food processor:  Place garlic clove, pine nuts and basil in a food processor and process until finely chopped (or roughly chopped, whichever you prefer).  Add cheese and olive oil and process until smooth.

Place a pizza stone in your oven and start preheating it at 450 degrees F. Prepare a pizza peel or just an upside down baking sheet by placing a piece of parchment paper on top. Roll dough out on a well floured surface, using a rolling pin.  Flour the top of dough to prevent it from sticking. Placing a piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough helps.  Roll out until dough it is a rectangle (about 15" x 8"). Spread pesto over entire surface.  Roll up the long side as tightly as you can.  Pinch sides under and place the dough carefully on the parchment paper.  Allow to rise for 30 minutes. 

You can vary the amount of pesto you spread on the bread.  The photo above shows a very thick amount of pesto. A thinner amount makes it easier to roll up the dough, so don't use too much the first time you make it.

Flour the top of the dough and, using a sharp small knife, slash dough on top 3 times, but not very deeply (you don't want the pesto to come out). Slide, along with the parchment paper, out onto the pizza stone. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown.  Remove to a rack to cool.


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Reader Comments (30)

Always looking for a new bread to serve with my grilled foods in the summer or perfect with a big farmers market salad!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStrawberry CAKe

It's nice to see a different recipe using pesto, rather than the traditional pasta. I can't believe you actually make it using a mezzaluna - what fun.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

Mmmmmmm...a little pepperoni and provalone baked in and I would call this Stromboli. A family favorite at my house. Yum.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom

I love the way the pesto looks made by hand! Yum!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjudee

This sounds so amazing! I love pesto but I've never had pesto bread.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBlog is the New Black

Wow, this bread looks amazing!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue

Wow is all I can say about this bread! I thought I exhausted all possible uses of pesto until I saw your recipe. This, I am definitely going to have to make. It's beautiful and nothing beats pesto!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Elaine, this looks wonderful! I love to make homemade bread and will have to remember this recipe. It would make a great appetizer.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFlavia

That bread looks so amazing. Now I see another cooking utensil that I just might really need. Mmm. I really want to make this so it is getting bookmarked for sure...

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSnippets of Thyme

Ohhhh golly--I can smell it through the screen!!!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

You always know how to make my mouth water. Yum yum.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudy F.

I loveeeee savoury loaves and your bread looks utterly delicious! saved this recipe and hope to give it a whirl sometime i feel adventurous :)

That looks so delicious! I can't think of a better combination(especially all in one package!) than fresh baked bread and beautiful basil pesto! Yummy!

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi

What a wonderful bread you made! Loved everything about it, must put it on my list of Summer projects!

Thank you!

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSallyBR

I SO need to make this!

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I always keep a supply of home made pesto in the freezer - I freeze it in ice cube trays - so I was able to make this bread as soon as I read the recipe yesterday. We had it with chicken casseroled with mushrooms, tomatoes and lots of herbs, soft polenta and a lovely green salad straight from the garden. It was a perfect combination.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJane Willis

Sounds awesome! I love garlic so this should be right up my alley.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Butterfield

I made this on Wednesday. It turned out fantastic! I don't know how I missed the post on 'no knead' bread, but I'll be using this recipe forever! I currently have another big batch in my fridge as I write! Thank you, thank you!

July 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Looks delicious. I often make basil, coriander or other fresh herb bread by adding them in to the dough. This will be a nice change. Thanks for shareing.

August 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMisbah

That looks so delicious! eve isk

August 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterwuting

I make basil every week (no recipe either) and I love the idea of stuffing it into a bread. You've given me basil inspiration!

August 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

I have just been on a breadmaking course, so I am very excited about this bread. You are opening up so many possibilities to me.

August 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

Delicious!!! I love this recipe, the ease of it, the flavor of it, the smell of it baking and of course the taste of it! Bread recipe is a keeper!! We made this bread yesterday with garlic and basil straight from our garden... along side a baked penne with sweet and hot sausage with Ricotta and provolone! Also a lovely salad straight from our garden! Amazing!!! Thank you!!

August 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeana

I've been using this recipe (no-knead dough) for a few weeks now in Italy and they are raving! Seriously never thought I'd be able to make anything to impress the sensitive and discerning palates here but it's amazing! Have nonnas, nuns and friends all asking for the recipe. Having friends here from Rome this weekend and will try it with wrinkly black olives. Can't wait!

September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDianna

I just got soaked because it's raining buckets here and I really *needed* to go get some basil. I'm pretty sure this bread won't make it to supper. I'll be sure to let my family know how amazing it was, though! Thanks for the Great Idea!

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

One of the sounds I treasure most from my youth was waking up on a weekend morning to the sound of my mother or grandmothers using the mezzaluna... A few years back while living in Italy I decided it was time I learned how to use one proficiently, with the aide of a couple relatives I soon mastered using the knife, I'm more proud of having learned that than if I had climbed Mount Everest... I like pesto made with a mezzaluna in that it's slightly chunkier than when made in the processor, as such it's presence is deliciously slightly more aggressive, as such great slathered on a steak!! Your bread is a must, I'll try it very soon, thank you.

December 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGian Banchero

I just made this recipe using the no knead bread dough. I made the dough two days ago. I have never made this recipe before. Anyhow, the bread didn't raise after I put the pesto in and rolled it, but I popped it in the oven after letting try to raise for thirty minutes, as you suggested. I didn't worry, because your original recipe said not to be concerned, because it will raise in the oven. Well, I just pulled it out. It smells amazing, even through my seriously stuffy nose, but it didn't raise much in the oven at all.

What did I do wrong? The dough In the fridge is full of nice big bubbles, so I assume the yeast is working, plus I just baked a loaf of my regular Itailian bread the other day with great results. Same batch of yeast. Should I have let it raise more before I put it the oven? Does rolling that particular dough change how long you should let it raise, because in the original recipe you just gently shape your dough? Thanks in advance for your help. By the way, love your blog and your photos!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

From The Italian Dish:

Robin: Did the bread turn out okay tastewise? It won't raise as much with the pesto in it, if you use a lot. Next time maybe try it with a thinner layer of pesto - I've done that, too - and it will raise more if that is your concern.

December 31, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

It tasted amazing!!! The kitchen smelled pretty awesome, too. I just baked a batch of the no knead bread tonight for dinner. The dough had been in the fridge since Friday. My husband said it tasted like rum. I think he was not used to the sourdough type flavor. He was afraid something was wrong with the dough. It may have been strong, because I cut it while it was warm. The family is used to my Italian bread that takes all day to make, and is tender and elastic. I might add some herbs to offset the taste until they get used to it. I thought it was wonderful, though. Thank you so much for your reply and your fantastic blog. Oh, I just checked out your knitting blog. You put the scarves I made for Christmas to shame. You do beautiful work. Happy New Year, and happy cooking.

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Hmmm this looks gorgeous - definitely trying this :)

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersarah

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