Who needs unlimited breadsticks when you can have a crusty, cheesy ciabatta garlic bread on the table in just a few minutes? This easy ciabatta garlic bread recipe uses just a few ingredients and easy techniques, I really hope you like it!
If you have the time, I recommend using my roasted garlic olive oil ciabatta bread or my small batch mini ciabatta bread as a base for this ciabatta garlic bread. And you really can't go wrong serving it with my big batch spaghetti and meatballs recipe!
Why ciabatta bread for garlic bread? Unlike denser breads, ciabatta's thick floury crust and airy crumb make for garlic bread slices that are crispy and light while still soaking up tons and tons of flavor.
Because the inside of the bread is so airy, it toasts and dries out slightly in the oven which makes it perfect for soaking up lots and lots of red sauce!
The spread of raw garlic paste gives an intense extra-garlicky flavor that mellows just slightly under the heat of the broiler. And that double cheesy bubbly layer on top is literally everything you want in a slice of crusty garlic bread.
Here are the ingredients you'll need to make this ciabatta garlic bread. See recipe card for quantities!
- Ciabatta Bread - I used my roasted garlic ciabatta bread here for maximum garlic vibes, but you can use store bought ciabatta bread if you don't want to make it from scratch. My loaf was about 15 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 2 inches tall.
- Garlic - Definitely make sure you have a whole garlic bulb on hand for this recipe. You'll need a lot of garlic paste, and depending on how big your garlic cloves are, this can take anywhere from 8-12 cloves!
- Unsalted Butter - We'll be adding salt when we make the garlic paste, so I recommend using unsalted butter. If salted butter is all you've got, use a lighter touch with the salt in the garlic paste.
- Parmesan Cheese - I recommend grating parmesan cheese by hand with a fine grater like a Microplane zester or the small holes on a box grater. It melts much nicer than if you use the pre-grated stuff. Pre-grated parm will work, just don't use the powdered stuff.
- Mozzarella Cheese - Low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese will give you the best result here. Different types of mozzarella melt very differently, so if you want a good amount of melting + browning without it all sliding off your garlic bread, low-moisture, part skim is where it's at. Again, I recommend grating it by hand using a Microplane zester or the small holes of a box grater for best results. But pre-grated will work in a pinch if you'd rather. To make the soft cheese easier to grate, pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes before grating.
- Fresh Herbs - Parsley, oregano, or basil are all great choices!
How to Make Garlic Paste
The first step is to make a garlic paste. You can do this in a mini food processor or you can use a zester or microplane tool if you prefer. For this recipe specifically, I like making garlic paste with a knife because it gives me a chance to add salt.
If you don't use the method below, mix a pinch of salt into the garlic paste before you spread it on the ciabatta.
Use the flat side of your knife to smash the garlic cloves flat. Gather them into a pile and sprinkle with salt.
Chop the garlic roughly with the knife, just to break it down a little more before we begin making the paste.
The salt here adds flavor and works as an abrasive (or an exfoliant, to borrow some skincare terminology). The sharp salt granules help break down the garlic cloves and draw moisture out of them, turning them into a paste.
The best salt to use for making garlic paste is a coarser kosher salt. The larger salt granules help the garlic break down faster.
If you only have table salt, that will work, but it's much saltier than kosher salt so don't use too much! Just a small pinch or so will go a long way. You can always add more salt later if it still needs it.
Gather the garlic to one side of the cutting board. Hold the knife at a roughly 20 degree angle and press down on the blade with your other hand. Then smear the garlic in a thin layer across the cutting board.
Repeat the chopping across the smeared layer of garlic. Sprinkle more salt on top if needed, then repeat the process of gathering the garlic to one side, smearing, and chopping until you have a paste.
KNIFE SAFETY TIP: Always keep the sharp knife edge facing away from the hand resting on the blade. In these photos, Jimmy is left handed so he starts the garlic pile on the left side of the board. That way when he puts his fingers on the blade to apply pressure, the knife edge is facing away from his right hand. If you're right handed, start the garlic pile on the right side of the cutting board.
Ciabatta Garlic Bread Assembly and Baking
I tested this recipe slicing the bread a few different ways. The best way to do it, I have decided, is to cut slices about 1-2" thick across the narrow width of the bread.
With this type of slice you get better airflow in the oven so the whole piece of ciabatta garlic bread to gets really nice and crispy.
I tested a batch where I cut the ciabatta sandwich-style and the bread ended up so soggy because there was nowhere for the butter or garlic to go — the thick crust trapped it all inside. (It wasn't very good and also I burned my tongue.)
Arrange the slices on a sheet pan. You can have them all right against each other or spread them out a bit. Here I was using my toaster oven broiler, but if you want to do a big batch in your oven you can give the ciabatta some breathing room.
Spread each slice with a thin layer of softened butter and a thin layer of the garlic paste. Then broil for 2-4 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned on top.
Then add the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Broil again for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.
Why broil the ciabatta garlic bread before adding cheese? If you don't roast the buttered garlic bread before adding the cheese, the cheese protects the garlic from the oven and you'll end up with a mouthful of raw garlic in every bite.
I'm a serious garlic lover, but even that was too much garlic for me.
By first popping the buttered garlic bread under the broiler, the garlic will has a chance to brown and roast, which mellows its flavor slightly. Then you add the cheese, which will prevent the garlic from burning.
NOTE: If you're using older garlic cloves, you might see the garlic turn green or even blue when it roasts. Don't worry, it's still totally normal and safe to eat. It does have a stronger flavor though, so watch out for that garlic breath!
When the cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly browned on top, sprinkle the fresh herbs over top. You can pop your ciabatta garlic bread slices back under the broiler for 30 seconds if you want to — I find it helps the herbs stick to the cheese — but this is optional!
For an extra buttery ciabatta garlic bread, brush the slices with melted butter when they come out of the oven. Then add the fresh herbs to finish.
Adjusting for Your Oven's Broiler
I did all of my recipe testing for this ciabatta garlic bread using the broiler setting on my countertop toaster oven. You may need to adjust the cooking times based on how intense your oven's broiler is. And definitely don't walk away while these are toasting!
I wrote the recipe with a range of toasting times to help with this, but my best advice to prevent burning is to check on them frequently. Broilers are very intense, direct heat, you won't be hurting anything by opening the oven door to check on them.
If you are using your home oven broiler rather than a toaster oven, position the oven rack so it is about 5-7 inches away from the broiler unit. You may also want to rotate the sheet pan to get even browning.
Storing & Freezing Garlic Bread
Ciabatta garlic bread is best eaten immediately. Because of how airy the slices are, it cools down and dries out pretty quickly.
If you want to make this ciabatta garlic bread ahead of time, you can freeze the slices on a sheet pan as soon as they cool down. Then store the slices in an airtight bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. The sooner you get them in the freezer, the fresher they will be when you reheat them!
To reheat from frozen: Place the frozen slices on a sheet pan at 350F for about 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly on top.
Practical Tips & Recipe Notes
- If you really want a shortcut version of this recipe, use my roasted garlic and chive compound butter in place of the garlic and butter. Just skip straight to the cheese step. (Note: This is really only a shortcut if you already have some of the garlic and chive butter in your fridge or freezer).
- I have seen the joke about how you always triple the amount of garlic a recipe calls for and I'm going to caution you against that here. A little goes a long way when it comes to the garlic paste. I only used about ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon per slice of bread and after a few batches for recipe testing I actually found the point at which I could not handle even one more bite of garlic. It is a very intense garlic flavor! Spread a very very very thin layer or you will be sweating garlic after dinner.
- If your cutting board has a tendency to rock or rotate, place a damp paper towel or a cloth kitchen towel under it to anchor it in place when you make the garlic paste.
Ciabatta Garlic Bread
- toaster oven with broiler (or oven with broiler, see notes for how to adjust cook times)
- Cheese grater
- 1 loaf roasted garlic ciabatta bread
- 8-12 cloves garlic (about 2-3 tablespoons garlic paste)
- ½ teaspoon diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much of any other brand)
- 6 tablespoons soft, unsalted butter (about ½ tablespoon per slice)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- 1 cup low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese (finely grated)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, or a combination!)
- Make the garlic paste. Use the flat side of of your knife under the heel of your hand to smash the garlic cloves. Tilt the blade of the knife slightly down toward the cutting board to protect your hand. Rock the knife blade back across the smashed garlic, then drag the flat of the knife (with the sharp edge tilted down toward the cutting board) across the garlic to smear it into a thin layer. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then cut across the garlic, gather it up into a pile, smear, and repeat until you have a very fine garlic paste.
- Preheat the broiler of your oven or toaster oven. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or a silicone mat.
- Assemble ciabatta garlic bread. Slice the ciabatta about 1½" thick. Spread one side with a thin layer of softened butter and about ⅛-¼ teaspoon garlic paste. NOTE: Make sure the cheese is grated and herbs are minced and ready to go before proceeding to the next step!
- Bake. Arrange the ciabatta garlic slices on the sheet pan and broil for 2 minutes. Remove from the oven, top with parmesan and a small amount of mozzarella, then broil 2 more minutes, until the cheese starts to brown slightly on top (you may need an additional minute, depending on your oven). Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs, then broil 1 minute more.
- Serve immediately.
- If using your home oven, arrange the oven rack so it is 5-7 inches below the broiler unit. Check on the slices after 1 minute to see how they're browning — they may be done or you may want to rotate the pan for even toasting!
- To freeze: As soon as the garlic bread cools to room temperature pop the sheet pan in the freezer. Then store the frozen slices in an airtight container with as much air pressed out as possible for up to 3 months. To reheat: 350F for 8-10 minutes or until warmed throughout and the cheese melts. This works best if you freeze before adding the herbs. Add the herbs right before serving.