About 150 million people will sit down for dinner at an Olive Garden this year, and here’s guessing that 149.9 million of them will gorge on all-you-can-eat salad and breadsticks before any of the food they actually ordered shows up. The stuff is addictive, which explains why so many of you wrote in asking for the recipe. We couldn’t get the tight-lipped staff at Olive Garden’s Orlando, FL, headquarters to give up their secret to Nancy Kahm from Omaha, Kristin Collier from Baltimore and everyone else who wrote. But we did the next best thing: Food Network Kitchens ordered a big batch of salad and breadsticks to go, then developed these tasty copies just for you.
Make the dough: Place 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer; sprinkle in the yeast and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, butter, sugar, fine salt and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water; mix with the paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 16 1 1/2-inch-long pieces. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch-long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Make the topping: Brush the breadsticks with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.