Garlic bread and pasta together is like a motorcycle with one of those little sidecars attached: it’s not cool anymore. Truly, I’ve never seen the benefit in piling up carbs when all it does is tranquilizer-dart you to bed at 7 p.m. Me? I like to stack fats. Loading up on two or three different kinds of fats in the same dish is luxurious living. Oil, butter, cheese, and lard are the four I try to mix the most. Stack fats on your garlic bread and, buddy, you won’t even be thinking about pasta. Plus garlic bread, to me, is meatballs’ soulmate. A big pot of meatballs with some GB sopping up copious amounts of red sauce... that’s the stuff Sundays are made of. Garlic bread solo has solid meal potential, too. Treat it like a main course and with some good technique, it will shine. There’s no need to make it the sidecar to your motorcycle.
Garlic bread can be made many different ways. Here are five of the most popular methods, listed in the order I prefer them:
Take a whole head of garlic, peel it (I give it a light smash with the back of a knife to make it easier), and submerge it in olive oil in a heatproof dish. Cover that in foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes. Once it cools a bit, take that garlic out and, in a separate bowl, smash it with a spoon. Spread that garlic paste all over a couple of slices of rustic Italian bread, then pop the bread in the oven to get it nice and warm.
The best part about roasting garlic is that the olive oil is now infused with garlic as well. Drizzle some of that oil on top of the bread before it goes in the oven. Don’t be afraid to drizzle more after as well. This is my favorite way to make oily, crusty, flavorful garlic bread: you get roasted flavors, the infused oil, and some extra bite if you sprinkle on a bit of Fontina cheese.
I’m a huge fan of Texas toast. Thick, soft, and unhealthy, the frozen stuff is usually packed with so much butter that it seems sopping wet. I’m into that.
For a disgustingly decadent garlicky version, heat together equal parts butter and oil in a saucepan on medium heat, then add some minced or crushed garlic. (A half-and-half mixture of butter and oil makes it much easier to cook the garlic without burning it.) Once the garlic is fragrant, not browned, take the pan off the heat and add a few tablespoons of minced parsley. Using a pastry brush or spoon, spread the garlic butter on each side of the Texas toast. Put it in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes, flipping it after 5 minutes. A second brushing of garlic butter halfway through isn’t a bad idea, either.
I don’t mess with those jars of minced garlic, but you bet your ass those bargain-basement Italian restaurants do. I’m willing to bet my own ass that this is the most popular way to make garlic bread: Take a fresh baguette, split it down the middle, then brush each half with a mixture of olive oil and minced garlic. Hit it with some grated Parmesan before it goes in the oven. I highly recommend mincing your own garlic by hand, or you can do what I do and take a couple cloves to the ol’ cheese grater.
Baguette garlic bread always reminds me of the little “pizza boats” we had for school lunches growing up. I believe the cafeteria workers would take a hoagie bun, cut it longways, then pile it with sugary red sauce, cheap pepperoni, and waxy cheese. Ahhhh, the old country!
Take a loaf of sourdough and slice the bread in a diamond pattern down to near the bottom of the loaf, but not all the way through. Think of it like this: You’re performing surgery and this is making incisions. Now carefully daub some garlic butter into each crevasse, then tuck a few pinches of shredded mozzarella cheese inside each. Wrap the loaf with foil and bake the whole thing at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes. You’ll end up with a large loaf of garlic bread ready for cheese-pull pics. I know this is some popular foodie-blog type shit, but cynicism aside, I do love the fun, family-style spirit of it.
If you’re on a bare minimum budget, you can make garlic bread with the things in your cupboard. Oil mixed with granulated garlic, dry oregano, and salt will do the job just fine. At my first restaurant job, we threw granulated garlic in just about everything. Even dishes that already had fresh garlic got a little hit of the granulated stuff. This isn’t a flashy way to do garlic bread, and you’re missing out on some of the flavor potential of the other methods—but it’s good to remember that stocking up on spices can bail you out of a jam.
If you need visual aids for cooking quarantine meals, my Instagram highlights have you covered.