Spinach & Cheese Strata
This elegant brunch strata — really a savory bread pudding with spinach, cheese and cubes of bread baked in custard — is ideal for entertaining. You do all of the preparation the night before and then let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next morning you simply turn the oven on, place the strata in, and effortlessly wait for brunch to emerge. It’s a ‘wow’ dish so you can keep the sides simple: crispy bacon, a Strawberry & Orange Fruit Salad and Mimosas would be perfect.
Before we get started, a few words about the ingredients. It’s important to use good quality cheese. The recipe calls for a combination of Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese but since they are both expensive, it’s fine to substitute something else; just use a good melting cheese with bold flavor, like extra sharp cheddar. The recipe is pretty flexible so you can play around with different sautéed vegetables depending on what you have on hand. Some cooked sausage or pancetta would also be good — just be sure to reduce the salt in the recipe to a scant teaspoon or the dish will be way too salty.
Begin by squeezing all of the water out of the spinach. This will take a few minutes — you won’t believe how much water is in there! Take your time; it’s important to get it all out.
Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the spinach and garlic and cook a few minutes more.
Layer a third of the bread in a buttered 3-quart baking dish.
Top with a third of the spinach.
Followed by a third of each cheese.
Repeat layering twice, ending with the cheese.
Make the custard by combining the eggs, half-and-half-Dijon mustard salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Pour evenly over top of the strata.
Then cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
Bake for about 75 minutes, until puffed, set and golden all over.
Note: My starting point for this recipe was this popular strata originally published in Gourmet magazine. I increased the spinach; amped up the flavor by adding garlic and increasing the salt; and swapped the milk for half-and-half and reduced the baking temperature from 350°F to 325°F for a creamier texture.
Spinach & Cheese Strata
- 1 pound bag chopped frozen spinach, thawed
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 12 ounces (3/4 pound) Italian sandwich bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 11 slices or 8 cups)
- 6 ounces (1-1/2 cups) coarsely grated Gruyère
- 2 ounces (2/3 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 9 large eggs
- 2-3/4 cups half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1-3/4 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Squeeze handfuls of spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and drained spinach and cook 2 minutes more. Set aside.
- Butter a 3-quart (or 9x13-inch) baking dish. Spread one third of the bread cubes in the dish and top evenly with one third of spinach mixture. (Try to break it up as much as possible so there are no huge clumps of spinach.) Sprinkle with one third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice, ending with cheeses.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the half-and-half, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and nutmeg and whisk until well combined. Pour the custard mixture evenly over the strata. Cover the strata with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake the strata, uncovered, until puffed, set and golden brown all over top, 70-75 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Note: The cook time is based on the strata going immediately from the fridge to the oven. If it sits out at room temperature before baking, the cook time will be 10-15 minutes less.
- Per serving (8 servings)
- Calories: 483
- Fat: 30g
- Saturated fat: 16g
- Carbohydrates: 30g
- Sugar: 4g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 25g
- Sodium: 1117mg
- Cholesterol: 280mg
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