Breakfast Strata with Sausage and Spinach

If you are planning breakfast for a crowd, a breakfast strata is the way to go - make it the night before and just bake in the morning.

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A wooden spatula serving a portion of breakfast strata onto a white plate.

What is a Breakfast Strata?

A breakfast strata is a layered casserole of bread, eggs and cheese, along with other flavorful ingredients. It’s similar to a bread pudding, but a strata generally has a higher egg to liquid ratio, making it a traditional breakfast or brunch dish. A strata does require soaking time before you bake it and that makes it a perfect make ahead breakfast item. You can make it the night before, let it rest in the fridge and then all you have to do is pop it into the oven in the morning.

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Ingredients for breakfast strata - sausage, cheeses, red peppers, dried sage, mustard, onion, eggs, spinach, half-and-half and a loaf of sourdough bread.

Strata Fillings and Flavors

One of the nice features of a strata is how versatile it is with respect to the ingredients and flavors you put inside. It can be savory, like this breakfast strata with sausage, spinach, roasted red peppers and Gruyère cheese, or you could make a sweet strata with fruit, cinnamon sugar and cream cheese. It’s a great way to use up what you have in the refrigerator. You could use the custard with any number of different fillings AND different breads. Here I used a whole wheat sourdough bread, but you could use brioche, Italian bread, baguette, or even cinnamon raisin bread or a Christmas pannetone if you are making a sweet version. 

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Looking down on a loaf of sourdough bread with bread knife, a skillet with sausage and spinach filling with a wooden spoon and a bowl of egg custard with a whisk.

Overnight Breakfast Casserole

The soaking is important to a strata. Letting the bread really soak up the egg and milk custard is what makes the strata creamy inside once it’s baked. I never see the soaking time required by this recipe as a negative. To me, soaking the casserole overnight gives this dish a level of convenience, although it does require thinking in advance. But since a strata is a special occasion breakfast, not a seat-of-your-pants breakfast, you’ve probably planned to have it in advance anyway.

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Nine photos showing how to build a breakfast strata, layering bread, savory ingredients, cheese and egg custard.

How to Build a Strata

Building a strata is as simple as layering the bread, the filling, the cheese and then pouring the custard on. Do this two or three times and your strata is ready for its rest. The one tip I have for you when building the strata is to spread all the layers as evenly as possible so that the casserole bakes and rises (and eventually falls) evenly. That means you need to make sure your bread reaches into all the corners of the pan. If you’re using square bread slices, this is relatively easy. If, however, you are using oval slices as above, make sure to cut some pieces to fill the gaps. If the bread goes all the way into the corners and the other layers are spread evenly over top, every piece is just as good as the others.

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Looking down on a breakfast strata after it is baked.

How Long to Soak and How Long to Bake

Soaking the breakfast strata takes at least 6 hours, but a full 12 hours is probably more convenient and gives you a creamier result. Do make sure to leave the strata out on the counter while the oven pre-heats and then bake it for about an hour, covered for part of the time, or a little longer until it has browned nicely on top and the egg has set in the very center. It will be puffy when you take it out of the oven, but it will sink pretty rapidly. Not to worry, it will be just as tasty. 

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Looking down on two plates of breakfast strata with a large casserole of strata nearby.

What to Serve with a Breakfast Strata

You can serve the breakfast strata right out of the oven, or you can let it cool to room temperature, making it perfect for those occasions when people come down to breakfast at staggered times. It could be part of a brunch with other offerings like a winter fruit salad, and some ham and Cheddar grits, or you could serve it with some buttermilk biscuits  or a slice of no knead bread and a simple little side salad. Whatever you decide to serve along with the strata can certainly be made while it’s in the oven baking. You’ll have time on your hands.

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A fork lifting out a bite of breakfast strata from a portion on a white plate.

 

Sausage and Spinach Breakfast Strata

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Cook Time: 1 h 10 m
  • Resting Time: 8 h
  • Total Time: 9 h 40 m
  • Servings:
    8

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces breakfast sausage
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ½ cup roasted red bell peppers cut into 1–inch strips
  • 5 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 9 eggs
  • cups half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) loaf artisan or sourdough bread sliced ½-inch thick
  • 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese or Swiss cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Generously grease a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan or casserole with butter.
  2. Remove the sausage from its casing. Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the skillet, breaking it up into pieces, and cook until it is no longer pink. Drain away all but 1 teaspoon of the sausage grease.

  3. Add the butter to the pan, along with the onion and sauté the onion until it is lightly browned. Stir in the dried sage, roasted red pepper and spinach and sauté until the spinach has wilted. Remove the pan from the heat.

  4. Whisk the eggs, half and half, Dijon mustard, salt and freshly ground black pepper together in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Arrange half the bread slices in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Top the bread with half of the sausage and spinach mixture. Sprinkle half of the Gruyère and Parmesan cheeses over the sausage layer. Pour half of the egg mixture over the bread, pouring evenly to coat as much as possible. Repeat the layers with the other half of the ingredients and pour the rest of the egg mixture evenly overtop. Push down on the ingredients lightly to make sure the bread is submerged in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least eight hours to overnight.
  6. Remove the baking pan from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to baking. Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

  7. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 25 to 35 minutes until the strata has puffed up and is set in the middle.
  8. Let the breakfast strata rest for 15 minutes before cutting into portions and serving.
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