Prepare the dough: Whisk the warm water, yeast, and granulated sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or paddle attachment. Cover and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Add the olive oil, salt, and half of the flour. Beat for 15 seconds, then add the remaining flour. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic. The dough can be a little too heavy for a mixer to knead it, but you can certainly use the mixer on low speed instead. After kneading, the dough should still feel a little soft. Poke it with your finger – if it slowly bounces back, your dough is ready to rise. If not, keep kneading.
Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray– just use the same bowl you used for the dough. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides in the oil. Cover the bowl with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. (See notes for overnight option) Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours or until double in size. Poke index finger into the dough, down to the second knuckle; if the indent remains after removing finger, dough has risen enough.
Shape the dough: When the dough is ready, punch it down to release the air. Using floured hands on a lightly floured work surface, shape the dough into a 16x5-inch log. Using a very sharp knife, pizza cutter, or bench scraper, slice into 16 1-inch strips. Roll each strip into 8-inch ropes. Tie each into knots. You can tuck the two ends of the knots underneath the knot or leave them out, that's up to you. Arrange the knots on the baking sheets.
Lightly cover the shaped knots and let them rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 45 minutes. They will slightly puff up during this time. Lightly touch the dough with index finger, if indent remains then dough is ready to be baked.
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Topping: Stir the melted butter, garlic, Italian seasoning, and salt together. Brush on the knots. Reserve some of the topping for when the knots come out of the oven.
Bake for about 18-23 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and brush the warm knots with remaining garlic butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and/or parsley, if using.
Serve plain or with marinara sauce for dipping.
Cover and store leftover knots at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freeze baked and cooled knots for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter, then reheat as desired.