Strata means, a layered casserole. They can be sweet or savory. I guess you could say it’s almost like a type of bread pudding. Anytime I’m looking for a recipe that will feed at least six people my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata is perfect. Not to mention, it’s comfort food in every sense of the word. Let’s start from the beginning.
Anytime I made Homemade Ciabatta Croutons I always make extra. Once they’ve cooled, I store them in an air-tight baggie and then I know I have them whenever I need them for soups and salads.
Prep Time: 30 to 40 minutes (time includes the cooking of all the ingredients going into the Strata)
Cook Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Yields: 6 servings
Equipment: 1 (12-inch) sauté pan, 1 (9 x 13) baking dish, 2 rimmed baking sheet pans, 1 medium-size mixing bowl, 1 large mixing bowl, chef’s knife, non-stick cooking spray.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup for the top
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 pint of white button mushrooms, sliced (substitute Cremini mushrooms)
2 1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 (5-ounce) package of fresh spinach leaves
1 (8-ounce) package of frozen asparagus spears, thawed and cut, on the bias, 2-inch pieces
1 loaf of Ciabatta bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (approx. 6 to 8 cups)
12 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups whole milk, room temperature
1 cup of half-and-half, room temperature
4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
4 ounces grated Fontina cheese (2 tablespoons for the top)
1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated (reserve 1/4 cup for the top)
Preheat oven to 400-degrees F.
Spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Cut the Ciabatta into 2-inch cubes, spreading them out onto 2 rimmed baking sheet pans. Over each baking sheet pan, divide evenly, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kosher salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper. Using your hands, toss each pan of bread cubes until coated. Bake for 15 minutes or until dry. Set aside and cool for 10 minutes
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil. Next, add the minced Fresno chili and garlic, cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, again stirring frequently, cook until they’ve released their water and brown, around 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper to taste.
To the pan, add the sweet Italian sausage. Using a wooden spoon, break the sausage up with a wooden spoon. Add the rosemary, fennel seeds, dried oregano, dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. Cook until all the sausage is brown and no longer pink, around 10 minutes.
Next, add the fresh spinach leaves. I like spinach to retain its beautiful green color, so I immediately remove the pan from the heat and continue tossing until all the spinach has completely wilted down. Next, add the asparagus, stir to combine. Set the filling aside.
Remember this dish still has to go into the oven.
Adjust oven temperature to 350-degrees F.
Start the custard by adding to the medium-size mixing bowl the eggs, milk, grated cheeses, 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper, whisk until combined.
In another large mixing bowl add the sausage mixture and cooled bread cubes. Gently toss to combine. Pour the custard over the sausage and bread cubes.
Gently fold the ingredients with the custard. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes giving the bread cubes a chance to absorb, most if not all, the custard. This will make it easier for the strata to come out later.
After 10 minutes, pour the mixture into the greased baking dish and sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top. Drizzle (1/4 cup) olive oil all over the top to ensure the bread browns evenly.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until you can see no more liquid coming up on the sides or up through the center. Once a wooden skewer comes out clean, the dish is done. The Strata should be nice and golden brown on the top.
Allow the Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata to rest for 20 minutes before cutting. There you have it, my Sweet Italian Sausage, Mushroom, And Asparagus Strata.