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braided italian bread with pesto on a sheet pan

Italian Pesto Bread

This Italian pesto bread is an easy braided bread recipe that is perfect for any occasion. Light and fluffy homemade Italian bread is braided with bright green basil pesto for not only a beautiful presentation, but delicious flavor.
4.34 from 12 votes
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Rising Time 1 hr 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 35 mins
Course Baking, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 10 servings
Calories 238 kcal


  • 1 ¼ cup warm water approximately 105-110˚
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons dry active yeast or 1 packet
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoons olive oil plus extra for greasing the bowl
  • 3 ½ cups all purpose flour plus extra for kneading and rolling the dough
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup basil pesto homemade or store bought


  • In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and allow to sit for the yeast to activate, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add in olive oil, flour, and salt and mix with a spoon or on medium speed until the dough starts to form a ball.
  • Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth ball is formed. If using a stand mixer, continue to mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should spring back when you press your finger into it.
  • Drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil into a clean bowl and add your dough. Roll the dough around in the bowl so it's covered completely by the olive oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
  • Remove cover from the bowl and punch down the dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out into a large rectangle that is approximately one inch thick.
  • Spread pesto thinly over the entire rectangle, leaving about one half inch around the edges.
  • Starting on the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly into a large roll. Pull the dough up and in as you are rolling to create as tight of a roll as possible.
  • Once the dough is completely rolled up, using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the roll in half down the middle to expose the layers of pesto.
  • Starting at the top, pinch the two pieces together to help secure them. Twist the two pieces of dough around each other until you get to the end and then pinch the ends together to secure.
  • Take the bottom of the twist and bring it up to the top to form a U shape. Twist the two sides together as well to form a larger braid and then tuck the ends under to secure and form the loaf.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° and place the braided loaf on a sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Cover the dough with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise for a second time till doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
  • Once the bread has risen for the second time, remove the towel and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Remove bread from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.


Recipe adapted from Easy Homemade French Bread Recipe by Six Sisters
  • When kneading the dough, knead until it is smooth and springs back when you press your finger into it.
  • If the dough is sticking too much, it can be sprinkled with a bit of flour. It should be tacky, but not stick.
  • To help your dough rise quickly, make sure that it's placed in a warm spot that is free from drafts. Sometimes that's outside, by the fireplace or under a vent for me!
  • When rolling the dough up with the pesto inside, pull it towards you a bit and then roll it in to make sure it rolls up tightly.
  • Make sure to secure the two ropes of dough at both the top and the bottom to help it stay together.
  • Bake the Italian pesto bread until it is golden brown and makes a hollow noise when thumped on with your finger.
  • Allow the pesto bread to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving to prevent it from drying out.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Tomato - Chop up ¼ cup of sundried tomatoes and add it to the pesto for some extra flavor and color!
  • Cheesy - After spreading the pesto over the top of the dough, sprinkle the dough with ½ cup of mozzarella cheese to make this a cheesy pesto bread!

Storage Suggestions

After baking, allow the loaf to cool completely and then store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. The cooled loaf can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two months.


Serving: 1sliceCalories: 238kcalCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 6gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 469mgPotassium: 73mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 250IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 28mgIron: 2mg
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