This easy Italian cheese bread is incredible! The simple dough is mixed by hand, and the baked bread is cheesy and full of flair and flavor!

Ok, you guys, stop what you are doing right this minute, and make this bread! Seriously. It will be the best decision you’ve made all week.

It is by far some of the most delicious bread I have ever eaten!

Three slices of Italian cheese bread on wood cutting board.

Bread Dough Mixed by Hand

The dough for this award-winning Italian cheese bread is mixed together by hand. No stand mixer needed!

Dough ingredients:

  • flour
  • sugar
  • yeast
  • olive oil
  • salt

As you mix, the dough will come together in a shaggy mess. This is when I ditch the mixing utensil, lightly grease my hands, and dive in to mix and lightly knead the dough for a few minutes until it forms a rough ball shape.

Try not to add additional flour unless absolutely necessary. The soft dough is what ensures the bread will bake up perfectly fluffy (you may even get some of those cute little artisanal air pockets if you’re lucky!).

Assembling the Cheese Bread:

Once the dough has risen, it’s time to make the deliciousness happen.

  1. press the dough onto a lightly greased half sheet pan about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick (it won’t cover the entire bottom of the pan – just get it into a rough oval shape)
  2. brush the top with Italian salad dressing (lots of notes in the recipe about store bought vs homemade; spoiler alert: either will work!)
  3. sprinkle with a simple mixture of pantry-ready dried herbs
  4. cover with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese

You already know how mentally allergic I am to anything related to soggy bread dough – I promise the salad dressing doesn’t make the dough soggy! Instead it adds the most incredible layer of flavor and helps the cheese adhere to the top of the dough.

Glorious Italian Cheese Bread

Bake the bread until the crust is golden and that cheese is a’sizzlin.

The aroma emanating from your oven is likely nothing you’ve ever experienced. All of my kids mentioned how amazing it smelled when they walked in the house the first time I made this bread. (And that’s saying a lot, because my family is used to the house smelling like food, for better or for worse. 😉)

I have made this bread over and over since then. It is honestly some of the most stunning homemade bread ever. And it is so easy!

Baked Italian cheese bread on half sheet pan.

I am so grateful that Sarah M (a loyal MKC reader for almost 20 years!) sent me this recipe. She’s been making this bread for over a decade and even won Grand Champion for it at her local fair!

I can never leave well enough alone, so I adapted the recipe to work a bit better for home cooks who may not own a pizza pan, and changed the quantities of the bread and toppings to better suit my carb-loving heart.

Last week, I packed up slices of this bread and took it to my son’s high school tennis match thinking it would make a simple dinner for me and Brian while we watched (yes, the whole loaf 👀😜). We never even got a single slice after my son, followed by a hoard of his ravenous teammates, spied it, devoured it, and begged me to bring it again.

I can’t wait for you to make this bread! It would be perfect for so many different occasions and meals. Or, just because you need Italian cheese bread in your life.

Two stacked pieces of fluffy Italian cheese bread on wood cutting board.

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Two stacked pieces of fluffy Italian cheese bread on wood cutting board.

Easy Italian Cheese Bread

5 stars (23 ratings)

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 3 cups (426 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ¼ cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan

Toppings:

  • cup bottled Italian salad dressing (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 1 cup (113 g) shredded mozzarella cheese (see note)
  • ¼ cup (28 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (see note)

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Add the water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix until the dough starts to come together in a shaggy ball.
  • Lightly grease your hands and continue mixing the dough, folding it over on itself and kneading it lightly (pressing it with the heel of your hand) 5 to 6 times, until the dough has formed a rough ball shape.
  • Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until noticeably puffy, 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush two tablespoons oil evenly across a half sheet pan.
  • Lightly punch down the dough and turn it out onto the prepared pan. Press the dough lightly into a rough oval shape, about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. It won't cover the entire bottom of the pan. It's ok to flip the dough once or twice while shaping; add more oil to the pan, if needed.
  • Brush the top of the dough evenly with the Italian salad dressing. In a small bowl, combine the basil, oregano, garlic, salt and thyme. Evenly sprinkle this mixture over the dressing.
  • Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses across the top of the dough.
  • If you have the time or want a slightly fluffier bread, let the bread rest for 10-20 minutes before baking. Otherwise, you can bake right away.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is sizzling. Let rest for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares and serving. The bread is delicious warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Salad dressing: use a brand of store bought Italian salad dressing you enjoy the taste of, and it will work fine in this recipe. Shake the dressing really well before using. The dressing in this salad recipe would make a great homemade option (leave out the Parmesan cheese in the dressing, if using for this recipe). 
Cheese: if you have the time, freshly grated mozzarella cheese from a block is best (it melts much better than pre-shredded cheese from the store). It isn’t a deal breaker if you need to use pre-shredded mozzarella cheese; however, I highly recommend using freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the perfect cheesy crust (pre-shredded Parmesan is often dried out and won’t melt as well as freshly grated Parm). 
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 144kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 374mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g

Recipe Source: adapted from this recipe by way of a reader, Sarah M., who has been making this bread for 20 years (and won Grand Champion at a local fair for it!)I increased and adapted quantities so the bread is perfect for a half sheet pan