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Italian culture is centered around the family gathering together and dining together and, undeniably, one of the most popular American-Italian dishes today is garlic bread. This simple dish requires just four ingredients. Next time you cook spaghetti (or any meal, really), impress friends and family with a side of fresh, made-from-scratch garlic bread.

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The Bread

The bread is key. Don't use sliced sandwich bread from your grocery store bread aisle. Instead, visit your local bakery and pick up a large loaf of uncut French bread. The scrumptious, crisp crust and light, airy center make this style an excellent option for garlic bread. If you're cooking for a crowd, buy two — everyone loves this side dish.

Fresh bakery French bread Drazen_ / Getty Images
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Soften Butter

You'll need about a 1/2 cup of salted butter per loaf of bread. To allow easy mixing and spreading, allow the butter to warm to room temperature by leaving it out on the counter for about it for 30 to 60 minutes. If you're running short on time, many newer microwaves have a Soften Butter option, or you can use a very low power level to ensure it doesn't melt.

Salted butter Joe_Potato / Getty Images
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Preheat

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. It's important to let your oven fully heat up before inserting your garlic bread, to avoid undesired results. Since the initial baking period occurs at a lower temperature, it may take longer for the butter to melt, and your light, airy bread might get tough if baked too long. Preheating is always important when baking.

Preheat oven allanswart / Getty Images
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Fresh Garlic

For each loaf of bread, you'll need three cloves of fresh garlic. Use a garlic press or micro plane to crush the cloves into tiny pieces. While fresh, pressed garlic will give the best results, ready-minced garlic from the grocery store is another option if you're short on time. 1-1/2 teaspoons ready-minced garlic equals three cloves fresh garlic. 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder may also be substituted for the three garlic cloves, but powder will give you quite a different flavor.

Garlic press brazzo / Getty Images
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Make the Spread

In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and pressed garlic with 1-1/2 teaspoons dried or fresh parsley. Your parsley can be dried or fresh. To use fresh parsley, first remove the leaves from the stem. Then mince the leaves with a sharp knife.

Parsley ithinksky / Getty Images
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Slice the Bread

Slice your French bread into 3/4-inch slices. When slicing bread, a serrated knife works best. The blade of a serrated knife looks like a saw, with teeth cut into the blade. Use a sawing motion to cut through the bread — never force the cut by pressing straight down, as this condenses and flattens the soft part of the bread. French bread can be cut perpendicular to the loaf or at a diagonal. Diagonal cuts will make bigger pieces of garlic bread.

Use a serrated knife Mubera Boskov / Getty Images
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Spread and Re-Loaf

Spread a generous amount of your butter mixture onto one side of each slice of bread. Then put your slices back together into the shape of the loaf, making sure all buttered sides face the same way. This ensures there is buttery goodness between every single slice. No one wants a slice of garlic bread that is light on the spread.

Spread and arrange into loaf JoeGough / Getty Images
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Wrap in Foil

Wrap each loaf of sliced and spread French bread tightly in aluminum foil. Cooking lore suggests you wrap foods to be baked with the shiny side down to reflect and radiate the heat. Other experts say it makes no difference at all whether you bake with the shiny side facing up or down. This decision is baker's choice.

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Bake

You're almost at the end. Place your loaf or loaves onto a baking sheet. Then place the baking sheet onto the center rack of your preheated oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When your garlic bread is ready, the crust will be extra crispy, and the butter spread should be fully melted and soaked into the bread.

Place in oven patchareeporn_s / Getty Images
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Serve Immediately

Fresh garlic bread is best when served immediately. You can prepare your loaves and have them wrapped in foil ahead of time. They are perfectly fine sitting at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the meal. Then pop the loaves into the preheated oven half an hour before dinner.

Warm, delicious garlic bread triocean / Getty Images

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