A breakfast casserole is a wonderful way to anchor a morning menu. Whether it is a holiday brunch, a birthday breakfast, or a baby shower, breakfast casseroles provide a punch of protein alongside lots of savory flavor.
However, my issue with most breakfast casseroles is that they involve cubes of bread soaked in an egg and cheese mixture, which is fine for a one-plate weekend breakfast menu (like my Maple Pecan Baked French Toast). But when I am hosting an event and want to offer an assortment of different breakfast breads , I don’t want the egg dish to also include bread. It’s too heavy!
Several years ago I began making a breakfast casserole without bread to solve the issue of having a bread-heavy menu. My Bread-Free Breakfast Casserole delivers layers of sweet, dried tomatoes, savory browned sausage, sautéed shallots, fresh eggs and cream, and layers of cheese for good measure. It also offers lots of room for you to serve your favorite breakfast bread alongside.
There are a few tips to make this casserole as successful as possible.
First, make sure you fully dry the tomatoes in the oven. If you don’t want to do this step, you can use sun-dried tomatoes, but make sure you drain them well to avoid adding a lot of extra oil. Any excess moisture in the tomatoes will make the finished casserole soggy and weepy, so make sure they are crinkly and arid before you add them.
Second, fully brown the sausage. It is not enough to simply cook the sausage until it is not raw. You need to let the edges brown and form a craggy crust before moving on to the next step. It is one of the details that makes a tremendous difference in the finished product.
Finally, I encourage you to utilize this casserole’s make ahead potential. At a minimum, assemble this the night before you serve it. To make this even easier and faster to put together, I like to dry out the tomatoes and brown the sausage on one day. On the next day, I will assemble the casserole. In the context of a holiday or planning a baby shower, little time savers can make a huge difference.
Bread-Free Breakfast Casserole
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 cup chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 10 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 cups grated Monterrey Jack cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
- Begin by drying out the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and spread the cherry tomato halves in an even layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with a smidge of olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Roast for one hour, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and beginning to dry out. (Alternately, if you want to skip this step, you can substitute about 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes. If they are packed in oil, make sure you drain them very well.)
- Cook the sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it has released some of it's fat into the pan and is no longer pink in the middle, add the chopped shallot, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Continue to cook until the shallots are soft and the sausage is nicely crisp and brown. Resist the urge to constantly stir. Do not move on to the next step until the sausage has developed a nice crust and the shallots have become tender and meltingly delicious.
- Add the white wine to the pan with the sausage and shallots, and use your spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until most of the liquid from the wine has evaporated. Remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until fully incorporated and no streaks of yolk or white remain. Add the cream, half-and-half, and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Stir to combine.
- To assemble, spray a 9X13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Evenly distribute the sausage mixture on the bottom of the pan. Top with the dried tomatoes. Add about half of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over everything. Add the remaining cheese and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
- At this point, the casserole can be stored in the fridge overnight.
- When you are ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 45-60 minutes until the middle is fully set, the top is puffed and golden, and the edges are just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.