OK, first a disclaimer: garlic bread is not Italian. In fact, it's number 5 in my list of "Italian" Foods You Won't Find in Italy. It is an Italian-American invention, perhaps improvised, some hypothesize, by Italian immigrants who had trouble finding the right ingredients in the U.S. and so made do instead with what was available: butter instead of olive oil, for example, and French bread instead of Italian bread.
If you go to Italy expecting to find long, thin loaves of bread slathered in butter and minced garlic and baked until crisp and golden-brown around the edges, you will be disappointed; it simply does not exist there. The closest thing in Italy would be fettunta (meaning, literally "oily slice"), which is a grilled or toasted slice of hearty, crusty bread lightly rubbed with a raw garlic clove before being sprinkled with extra-virgin olive oil and salt. That's Italian "garlic bread."
This does not, however, mean that Italian-American garlic bread is not delicious. It is, in my humble opinion, easily the best thing on offer in your average Italian-American restaurant.
While serving it with pasta, as is often done, might be a bit of overkill (care for some carbs with your carbs?) and its pungent garlicky flavor can easily overwhelm more delicate or subtle dishes, I think it pairs really well with seafood, in particular. But who are we kidding? I (and most other people who are not lying) would happily consume half a loaf of this all on its own.
And it's so quick and easy to make that it's a no-brainer, last-minute addition to any meal that can take it from satisfactory to spectacular in just 15 minutes.
- 1 baguette
- 8 tablespoons of butter (salted, softened, at room temperature)
- 6 garlic cloves (peeled and very finely minced)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
Cover a baking sheet in aluminum foil.
Slice the baguette in half lengthwise.
Mix the softened butter and minced garlic in a small bowl.
Spread the butter-garlic mixture over both halves of the loaf of bread, then sprinkle evenly with the minced parsley, if using.
Place the bread on the baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the butter has melted and the bread is lightly crisped around the edges.
For a crispier, more browned top, you can also put the bread under the broiler for another 1-2 minutes (watch carefully so that it doesn't burn!)
Optional: Add a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese before broiling.