Hearty, delicious sausage, egg and cheese stuffed bread is a simple, make ahead breakfast that’s great for weekends and holidays. To me this savory loaf is like a cross between strata and a breakfast bake, but this sausage egg spinach casserole is baked and served in a hollowed out loaf of bread.
This recipe was inspired by one of my favorite make ahead breakfast casseroles… The strata. Essentially, a strata is a combination of stale bread, tossed with savory fillings and soaked overnight in an egg custard before being baked off the next morning. It’s crusty, moist and flavorful. Like a savory bread pudding.
I love the simple preparation and how it feeds a crowd, but I took this recipe a step further. Instead of the standard casserole presentation, this stuffed bread uses a hollowed out Italian loaf as the “casserole dish”. Filled with a meaty sausage, spinach and mushroom stuffing, and doused it in an easy egg custard, then baked.
It has a crusty, crunchy exterior, soft, eggy interior, almost like a soufflé, and is loaded with sausage, spinach, mushrooms and bell peppers. Don’t forget the gooey, cheesy finish.
Sounds good, right?
A few challenges
I thought about the assembly of this dish a lot before I actually decided to try it, because, logistically speaking, it was fraught with potential pitfalls.
My big concerns were two-fold, involving the bread.
- Would the bread absorb the egg custard and become a rich, soft vessel for the filling?
- Would the crust hold up to the custard without leaking or dissolving? Especially if I soaked it with the egg custard overnight.
- How much was too much custard?
- How long would it take to cook the egg?
- What temperature would bake the eggs without burning the crust?
The only way to know for sure was to try.
Ingredients for Breakfast Stuffed Bread
- Whole Loaf of Stale Sourdough or Italian Bread
- Olive Oil
- Red Bell Pepper
- Bulk Sausage
- Fresh Baby Spinach
- Regular Whipping Cream
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Basil
- Dried Marjoram
- Cayenne Pepper
- Shredded Cheese
This simple blend of sausage veggie and eggs baked in bread is easy to make, but it does take some planning, starting with the bread.
Best loaf for stuffed bread
Look for a whole loaf of Italian white bread or sourdough from the bakery of your grocery store. Something roughly 12″ long and 4″ to 5″ wide is about right. (You could also use a round loaf, but you may have to adjust the the amount of other ingredients if it doesn’t hold the same volume.)
Don’t use fresh bread
The bread needs to be stale before you get started on this recipe. If it’s too fresh, the egg custard will seep right through the crust. I recommend setting the bread out for 2-3 days until it becomes very firm, with just a little give in the center, so plan accordingly.
Hollowing the bread
- On the day you assemble the sausage egg and spinach bread casserole, prepare the bread, by using a serrated knife to remove the top crust from the loaf by sawing around the perimeter and leaving a “V” shaped center.
- Remove the “top crust” and set aside. Continue to cut about 3/4″ from the sides, being particularly careful not to pierce through the sides.
- Use your clean hands to pull out and remove the interior of the bread. Leave about 3/4″ bread border around the interior of the loaf on the sides and bottom. (Make croutons or fresh breadcrumbs with the excess.)
- You should be left with a bread bowl that has about 1/2″ of softer, white interior and a tough exterior crust.
The filling for this stuffed bread is made from bulk sausage and veggies. It’s a good idea to have roasted the red pepper earlier in the day, or even several days before, so that it’s set to go when you’re ready to assemble the stuffing.
If you don’t want to roast the peppers yourself, you can also buy jarred peppers.
Making sausage & vegetable filling for stuffed bread
- Sauté the mushrooms until browned and transfer to a mesh sieve to drain the excess liquid. (Mushrooms are primarily water).
- Brown the sausage in the same pan as you browned the mushrooms and break it apart with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain the sausage of excess fat in the mesh strainer. (You don’t want excess liquid).
- Return the sausage and mushrooms to the skillet (it doesn’t have to be on the burner) and add the spinach and chopped, roasted bell peppers and fold them together with the hot sausage until the spinach just starts to wilt.
Tips on stuffing the bread
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage, spinach and mushroom mixture into the hollowed out bread bowl. This way, any extra liquid can drain before adding it to the bread.
- Be sure to fill in the gaps on the sides of the bread with the sausage stuffing, so it’s packed well.
This would be a pretty dry stuffed bread with only sausage and veggies filling the center of the loaf. Therefore, to add moisture, richness and transform this stuffed bread into something worthy of breakfast or brunch, an egg custard is the simple solution.
How to make the egg custard
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs with the dried herbs and spices, salt and pepper.
- Whisk well to break up the eggs.
- Add the whipping cream and whisk to combine.
Add the egg custard in stages
You’ll be adding the egg mixture in several steps to give it a chance to soak into the bread without leaching through the bottoms or sides.
Too much custard added all at once would be overwhelming. It will take the stale bread a bit of time to absorb the liquid, so you want to give it time to meld. (That’s why you normally make a strata the night before, so that the bread has time to fully absorb the custard.)
- Pour about half of the custard evenly over the sausage filling.
- Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, then add another cup of the custard.
- Cover the stuffed bread with plastic wrap and and refrigerate overnight.
- Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg custard to add the next day.
Filling and baking the stuffed bread strata
- The next morning remove the stuffed bread strata from the refrigerator and touch the exterior of the crust all around the bread. You should feel some soft spots where the custard has been absorbed nearly through the bread and is just barely contained in the loaf. That’s perfect, it means that the egg has soaked deeply into the crumb and will give you a tender, soufflé-like texture on the inside.
- Let the bread sit out on the counter for half an hour to come to room temperature. It takes a cold casserole longer to cook, so help it along by taking the chill off the casserole while the oven preheats.
- Just before baking, give the remaining custard a stir and pour it evenly over the casserole.
- Place the casserole in the center of the oven and bake for about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
- About halfway through cooking, turn the stuffed bread 180° in the oven so that it cooks evenly and check to see if it’s browning too quickly.
- If the stuffed bread is getting too dark, cut a piece of tin foil large enough to cover the bread and rest it gently on top. Continue to bake until it’s done.
Tips to tell when the strata is done.
The sausage and spinach stuffed bread is cooked when the egg custard has set. To determine that, look at the center of the egg bake. If it’s still liquid-y in the center, it’s not done and needs to bake some more.
You may need to press the sides of the bread, gently together about an inch or two, to determine if the egg custard has set. If you see raw custard, it needs more baking time.
Another method to check doneness, is to use a cake tester. Stick the tester into the center of the egg casserole and check to see if it comes out clean or is wet with the custard. If it’s wet, give it more time.
The egg bake should be moist, but not liquid-y. If the custard hasn’t set, give it another 15 to 20 minutes and check again.
You can see in the photo below that the custard has firmed up around the edges, but it did take longer for the center to set.
When the custard has set and is no longer jiggly, sprinkle on the cheese and bake again for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Best types of cheese to use for the egg bake
You can use almost any type of melty cheese to finish the sausage and spinach stuffed bread strata. Try these:
- Italian Blend
- Monterey Jack
- Pepper Jack
- Colby Jack
- Blue Cheese Crumbles
- Or use a combination (I used Italian Blend with Sharp Cheddar)
Let it rest before serving
When it comes out of the oven, the sausage egg and cheese stuffed bread will be very hot. Let it rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cutting board to serve.
Cutting and serving tips
I wouldn’t use a serrated knife to cut the stuffed bread. The sawing action will loosen the filling and has the potential to rip through the sides of the bread.
Instead, use a large, heavy chef’s knife to cut straight down into the egg bake. You’ll want slices that are between 1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ wide.
The ends of the stuffed bread won’t have much filling in them, so I cut them off and leave them to the side and proceed to cut the rest of the baked bread strata into servings.
What does the sausage egg and cheese bread casserole taste like?
This stuffed bread strata is meaty, savory and rich. You’ll need a fork for the very center, but I found my tasters picking up the edges to eat like pizza. The outside of the crust is audibly crunchy while the interior is soft, moist and eggy. The herbs and cayenne pepper add a nice flavor and a bit of heat.
This stuffed breakfast bread has plenty of veggies, sausage egg and cheese, too. Enough that you’ll get some in most every bite.
I think you’ll agree that it’s a perfect overnight casserole for weekend brunches and holiday gatherings.
Reheat in the oven, not the microwave, otherwise the crust won’t be crunchy. Heat the oven to 350° and rewarm the egg and bread casserole for about 15 minutes or until the interior is hot.
You can store leftovers for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
You can freeze the stuffed bread, after you’ve cooked it. Wrap it well in freezer paper and freeze for up to a month. Defrost it completely before reheating in the oven.
What goes with sausage egg and cheese stuffed bread?
- Winter citrus salad
- Leafy Green Salad
- V-8 Bloody Mary
- Gluten Free Apple Buckwheat Muffins
- Ruby Thyme Spritzer
More Breakfast Casseroles
- Chorizo Egg Bake
- Bacon & Caramelized Onion Strata
- Make Ahead French Toast with Sausage Apple & Cranberries
- Hatch Chile Breakfast Strata
Stuffed Breakfast Bread
- 1 stale Italian or Sourdough bread 12" long
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 8 ounces white or baby bella mushrooms stems removed, sliced into 1/4" pieces
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 pound bulk sausage I used Jimmy Dean
- 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
- 9 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups regular whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheese Mozzarella, cheddar, monterey jack, colby jack, or provolone
FOR THE ROASTED RED PEPPER:
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a roasting pan with tin foil or parchment and place the whole bell pepper in the center. Cook for 25-30 minutes in the hot oven until the skin has blackened and is puffed and the flesh is tender. Transfer the pepper to a small bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Cool the pepper to room temperature.
- Peel off the skins and remove the stem and seeds. Chop the pepper into 1/2" pieces and set aside.
PREPARE THE BREAD BOWL:
- Use a sharp serrated knife to cut off the top of the sourdough bread, leaving an opening that slightly curves back into itself. Scoop out the stale bread, leaving about 3/4" still attached to the crust throughout the loaf. (save the interior for breadcrumbs or stuffing). Set the bread bowl aside.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the mushrooms and saute until browned and have given up most of their liquid. Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl.
- Add the ground pork sausage to the pan and saute, breaking the sausage apart into small chunks and browning it. Transfer the sausage to a mesh strainer to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Turn the heat off the pan and add the spinach to the pan along with the hot drained sausage. Toss until the spinach wilts.
- Drain any excess liquid from the mushrooms and add them to the pan with the spinach and sausage.
- Use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the roasted bell pepper and add to the sausage mixture. Toss to combine.
- Transfer the sausage mixture to the hollowed out loaf of bread and set aside.
MAKE THE CUSTARD:
- In a medium bowl combine the eggs, cream, pepper, salt, oregano, marjoram, basil and cayenne pepper and whisk to combine.
- Transfer the sausage filled bread boat to a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper or tin foil (sprayed with vegetable spray)
- Pour about half of the custard over the sausage mixture and let it rest for 10-15 minutes or until it's soaked into the bread. Add another cup of the custard mixture and lightly cover the stuffed bread with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. Cover the remaining custard mixture and refrigerate.
TO BAKE THE BREAD CASSEROLE
- When you're ready to bake, remove the bread from the refrigerator about half an hour before baking to take the chill off the casserole.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Pour the remaining custard over the bread casserole. Sprinkle with cheese. Tent the bread with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for Bake for 20-30 minutes more or until the eggs are set.
- Remove the bread casserole from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting.
- To serve, use a sharp serrated knife to cut crosswise pieces about 1 1/2" thick and transfer to a plate.