This Italian-style layered casserole is fabulous for brunch and for supper! Somewhat like a savory bread pudding, it’s great for entertaining because it can be easily prepared the day before and refrigerated. Just let the strata sit at room temperature for a half an hour, or until it isn’t chilled, before baking.
Spinach, Cheese, and Ham Strata
1 ½ pounds fresh spinach stemmed and chopped, or one 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups 1-inch cubes French or Italian bread
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
1 cup diced ham
10 large eggs
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Butter a 9” x 12” or 15” x 9” baking dish.
- Transfer the bread to a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 250°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the bread pieces are barely starting to crisp on the outside. Let cool completely before assembling.
- If using frozen spinach, squeeze handfuls of the spinach to remove as much liquid as possible, then roughly chop.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add the spinach, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Spread half the bread cubes in the prepared baking dish. Top evenly with half the spinach mixture. Sprinkle with the ham and half the cheese. Reserve the rest of the cheese for the top layer..
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the milk, mustard, salt, and pepper, and whisk until blended. Pour the custard evenly over the strata. Press the bread down with your hands to make sure it’s covered with liquid. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight, until the bread has absorbed the custard.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Let the strata stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, or until it isn’t chilled.
- Cover the strata with tin foil or a lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the tin foil or lid and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the egg custard is set. It’s done when the center doesn’t jiggle when shaken. Remove from the oven and let the strata cool at least 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve from the same baking dish.
Makes 8 servings
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Try adding some of the following ingredients to your strata. The ingredients need to be cooked and completely cooled before adding: Blanched asparagus pieces, caramelized onions, sautéed sliced mushrooms, sautéed zucchini slices, cooked broccoli florets, chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, quartered artichoke hearts, green onions, pitted green or black olives, crumbled crisp bacon, fried sausage pieces, shredded cooked chicken, minced fresh rosemary or thyme, grated lemon zest, grated nutmeg. Instead of or in addition to Gruyère cheese, use shredded Swiss, Parmesan, Fontina, or sharp Cheddar cheese. Add a dash of Tabasco.