This filling and flavorful ham and cheese strata is loaded with ham, cheese, peppers and spinach and can be prepared the night before so that you can relax and enjoy breakfast with almost no work in the morning. The perfect breakfast to feed a crowd during the holidays – serve with some Cranberry Mimosas for brunch!
My family is so spread out that I haven’t experienced the jam-packed house of relatives at the holidays since I was a little kid.
In my head, holiday mornings are always a combination of Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where everyone is either running around like a lunatic or desperately trying to get their Christmas lights to work.
And then of course you have the older relatives who are napping in the family room because they’ve already been up for hours, while you’re doing your best to plan a breakfast that will accommodate all these people who have so kindly come to join you to celebrate the holidays.
My solution? This ham and cheese breakfast strata that can be made the night before so that Morning You just had to pop it in the oven.
Sound like a plan? I thought so – let’s discuss the ways to make it the best breakfast ever.
Tips for making the best ham and cheese strata
First and foremost, use ingredients that you like! If you’re not a fan of red peppers, don’t include them. If you want to add kale instead of spinach, swap it out! This recipe is easy to customize to your own personal preferences.
Use quality ingredients. Don’t use that onion in the back of the drawer that’s questionable, or slimy spinach. All of your ingredients should be able to stand out on their own, so make sure they’re all in tip top shape before you start cooking.
Use non-flavored country ham. If you use a honey-baked ham or some other flavor, you might end up with an odd tasting strata. I like to use two 6 ounce packages of Clifty Farm Country Ham Biscuit Slices. They’re cured with a simple salt and sugar mix and aged over 90 days for the perfect country ham flavor.
Oh, and make sure the ham slices are thick! You want the ham to hold up well during baking so that it’s not thin, limp, and flavorless by the time it hits your plate.
Clifty Farm Country Ham Biscuit Slices are thick cut, which is another reason it’s my personal preference. Just dice them up into ~1″ squares during your ingredient prep.
Use stale bread. I know, that sounds counter intuitive – but you want the bread to be stale so that it can sustain being soaked in the egg mixture and being baked. If you use fresh bread, you’re going to end up with a soggy mess.
I like to use a 12″ Italian or French bread loaf that’s been sitting on the counter, unwrapped overnight. If it’s still fresh and you want to expedite the process, cut the bread into cubes and lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
Choose your cheese wisely. I personally find Gruyere to have the best flavor and it melts beautifully in this dish. However, if you don’t care for it or can’t find it, you can also use freshly grated (on the largest holes of your cheese grater) mozzarella or cheddar.
To get the best, melty results, you really need to grate it yourself instead of using pre-shredded packaged cheese. But for the Parmigiano-Reggiano, feel free to use the packaged kind.
Can you freeze breakfast strata?
Yes! Prepare through step 7 in the recipe card below, then cover the casserole with plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Just allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before you want to bake it, then bring it to room temperature then continue with step 8 to bake.
Steps for making ham and cheese strata
You can find the recipe card below, but if you’re more visually inclined I’ve laid out each of the steps with photos below.
- Make sure all your ingredients are prepared and ready to go, because things come together pretty quickly.
- Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent (about 4 minutes).
- Now add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Finally, add spinach, stir to combine, then remove from heat and set aside – you’ll notice it will be about half the size it was and wilted.
- In your baking dish that’s coated with nonstick spray, add half bread in a single layer.
- Follow with ½ the spinach mixture.
- Next add ½ the green and red peppers.
- Now add ½ the ham slices.
- End with ½ the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Repeat steps 1-5 in the same order with the rest of the ingredients.
- Add eggs to a medium sized bowl.
- Carefully add milk to the bowl.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Whisk everything together until well combined.
- Pour in an even layer over the ingredients in the casserole dish. Add more freshly ground pepper, if desired.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight (up to 12 hours). When you’re ready to bake it, remove casserole from fridge and let come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375°F and bake for 30 minutes. Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Casserole is done with browned on the sides and puffy in the center. Mine usually takes about 55 minutes.
Just look at it! Golden brown, crusty bread peaking through ooey, gooey melted cheese and vibrantly colored ham and veggies.
The smell of this strata baking is so good it will probably wake everyone up from a deep sleep. They’ll wander into the kitchen, sniffing the air like cartoon characters, and eagerly await being served.
Use a large knife to cut out the slices, and a spatula to serve. I like to cut mine into 12 pieces (3 width-wise, 4 length-wise), but you can do whatever works best for you.
I find that one slice of 12 tends to be the perfect portion to feel full, but not overstuffed. Of course, mileage may vary depending on how heavy my dinner was the night before and how late in the morning it is.
Clifty Farm sells their products are a variety of different grocery stores, but if they don’t sell near you, fear not! You can purchase their products online (with free shipping!) and have them delivered right to your door.
Follow Clifty Farm on Facebook and Instagram for recipe ideas to free up your brain for things like calculating how many slices of this strata will be leftover for you once everyone else has had their share. You know, the more important things.
After you’ve made this recipe, please consider coming back to share your experience with others by leaving a comment below with a star rating!
Ham and Cheese Breakfast Strata
Checklist For Success
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 cups spinach, loosely packed and roughly chopped
- 1 12" baguette, cut into 1-2″ cubes (I recommend a stale Italian or French bread*)
- 1 green bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2-6 ounce packages Clifty Farm Country Ham Biscuit Slices, cut into 1-2″ slices
- 2 cups Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 6 eggs
- 1 ½ cups milk, any dairy or non-dairy
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Coat a 3-quart casserole dish or 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent (about 4 minutes).1 medium yellow onion
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute.1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Add spinach, stir to combine, then remove from heat and set aside.6 cups spinach
- In your prepared baking dish, add half bread in a single layer, followed by ½ the spinach mixture, then ½ the green and red peppers, then ½ the ham, then ½ the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. Repeat in the same order with the rest of the ingredients.1 12" baguette | 1 green bell pepper | 1 red bell pepper | 2-6 ounce packages Clifty Farm Country Ham Biscuit Slices | 2 cups Gruyere cheese | ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour in an even layer over the ingredients in the casserole dish. Add more freshly ground pepper, if desired.6 eggs | 1 ½ cups milk | 1 teaspoon salt | ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight (up to 12 hours).
- Remove casserole from fridge and let come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Casserole is done with browned on the sides and puffy in the center. Mine usually takes about 55 minutes.
- Slice, serve and enjoy!
- Bread: Don’t have stale bread or time to wait for it to become stale? Cut it into cubes and lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes at 350°F.
- Freezing Instructions: Prepare through step 7, then cover the casserole with plastic wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature, then continue with step 8.