Just because breakfast casseroles are an easy, make-ahead way to feed a crowd, it doesn't mean that they can't also be elegant and beyond tasty. What makes this Italian egg bake so scrumptious is the quality and choice of ingredients. This Italian egg bake (also known as strata) is made from crusty ciabatta bread, tangy smoked mozzarella, sweet and meaty sun-dried tomatoes, and the freshest spinach from Caruso Farms East. Since it can be made the night before, an Italian breakfast casserole is a perfect meal for a lazy Sunday and special enough to serve to mom this Mother's Day.
Taking your mom to a Mother's Day brunch can sometimes be a hassle. Restaurants are busy that day, so you don't always get the best, most relaxing service. Sometimes my sisters and I opt to stay in and have an at-home spa day with our mom. It's really fun. We each make a little something to eat. We make spa treatments for our hands or faces. We might do a little yoga and have drinks. Always drinks. Oh, and we hire a masseuse to come to the house. While one of us is getting a massage, the rest of us sit around the table, eat a little, chat a little, and play a fun game or two. I cherish the time with my sisters and my mom and the slow pace of it all.
That's why I love making this Italian egg bake for Mother's Day. I can put it together the night before. It's easy enough for anyone to make but special enough to serve to the ones you love.
Making a beautiful and thoughtful meal doesn't have to be hard. Just choose the finest ingredients you can afford. That's it.
Being Creative with Casserole
Another reason that breakfast casseroles are so fun to make is that you can add whatever ingredients you like. The base of many Italian breakfast casseroles is a bread and egg mixture. It's like a blank canvas from which you can create your own masterpiece.
This Italian egg bake is vegetarian, but maybe you'd like a little meat in there. Often, I add a cup of browned and chopped Italian sausage. Depending on the crowd I'm serving, I may add sweet Italian sausage or spicy Italian sausage. Sometimes, I add pancetta instead. I dice up about ½ a cup of pancetta and render it in a pan. Then I mix that into my strata.
No Italian breakfast casserole would be complete without gooey, melted cheese, and I'm in love with the smokey taste of smoked mozzarella. Can't find smoked mozzarella? That's a shame because it's the flavor that your guests will taste and say, "What's in here? This tastes amazing." But if you can't find smoked mozzarella, regular mozzarella, or even provolone, will taste great.
In addition to choosing the meats and cheeses you prefer, you can also add whatever vegetables you like, such as zucchini or red peppers, and always greens.
Greens add freshness and beauty to this Italian breakfast casserole. Fresh herbs, like basil, are a flavorful addition as well. I'm fortunate enough to have a local farmer, Caruso Farms East, near me where I can buy local, fresh, seasonal ingredients. (Subscribe to receive their weekly order form.) The spinach in this egg bake came out of the ground and into my dish in less than 24 hours. Most of the spinach at the grocery store has already been aging on the shelf for close to a week by the time we bag it up and bring it home. Farm-fresh spinach is more tender and sweet. So if you have a local farmer or a farmer's market in your area, consider buying your produce there. It really does make a difference.
What is the Key to Making the Best Italian Egg Bake?
- Use the highest quality ingredients you can get your hands on.
- Make sure to allow the bread to soak for 30 minutes and even pressing it down with your hands. This will guarantee that your Italian breakfast casserole is moist and eggy with every bite.
What Should I Serve with Italian Breakfast Casserole?
Italian egg bake is such a filling and hearty dish that I would serve it with something light and simple, like mixed greens simply dressed with olive oil and vinegar or macerated strawberries with balsamic vinegar. To macerate a carton of strawberries, remove their stems and cut them in a half. Sprinkle the strawberries with 3 Tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Let them sit for 30 minutes before serving.
The acid in the macerated strawberries or the dressing for a simple salad cuts through the richness of Italian breakfast casserole. It's the perfect compliment. What a simple and elegant meal to make for your family and a lovely way to make Mom feel special this mother's day.
Italian Egg Bake with Ciabatta, Smoked Mozzarella, & Spinach
- 1 lb country Italian bread cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 cups cubed smoked mozzarella (about 1 lb) cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup sundried tomatoes in oil rough chop
- 2 cups chopped spinach
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups heavy cream
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
- Cube bread and cheese and chop sundried tomatoes and spinach.
- Add half of the cubed bread, cheese, sundried tomatoes, and spinach to your greased baking dish, making sure to evenly distribute all the ingredients.
- Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, whisk six eggs. Whisk in the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Pour egg mixture over the casserole. Use your hands to push down on the cubed bread and let the custard soak in for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, press down on the casserole again, making sure that all the bread is moist. Cover the casserole with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes and serve.