This asparagus, egg, and cheese strata, made with Fontina, asparagus, and prosciutto, can be put together ahead of time or last minute. A great breakfast or simple dinner.
This is not your mom’s overnight breakfast. No Jimmy Dean’s sausage. No lurid packaged shreds of processed cheese. No tube of crescent rolls on the side. Just simple ingredients and the uncomplicated but undeniable richness and loveliness that inevitably results.–David Leite
Can I double this recipe?
You can easily double this recipe for a crowd and bake it instead in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish for 1 hour. Then watch it disappear. In making this strata look elegant, the lovely and talented Sarah Copeland, author of this recipe, chose to leave her asparagus spears long. While this does indeed make for a pretty presentation, it also creates something of a not-so-practical eating experience as you attempt to politely cut through an asparagus spear that’s irrevocably intertwined with strands of melted cheese using nothing but a fork. This is usually not something we’d like to inflict on our loved ones. While we leave this decision to your discretion, we’re thinking that slicing the spears into 1 1/2-inch lengths isn’t such a terrible sacrifice.
Asparagus, Egg, and Cheese Strata
- Butter for the baking dish
- 4 thick slices (4 1/2 oz) artisan bread preferably hearty whole grain or multigrain
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 1 cup whole milk
- 8 ounces (about 1 cup) grated Fontina cheese
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 to 8 asparagus stalks
- 4 thin slices prosciutto or mortadella, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely snipped chives (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F (176˚C). Butter a smallish, 4-cup ovenproof baking dish.
- Trim the crusts from the bread and toss them to the birds or in the compost. Place the slices of bread in the baking dish, overlapping the slices slightly and, if necessary, allowing the edges to hang over the side of the dish just a little.
- Whisk together the eggs and milk. Stir in half of the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Pour 3/4 of the egg mixture over the bread and set the rest of the egg mixture aside.
- Break off the stem ends of the asparagus where each one snaps naturally. Cut the spears into 1 1/2-inch lengths.
- Layer the prosciutto or mortadella, if using, on the bread. Place the asparagus spears on top and pour the remaining egg mixture over the asparagus. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. At this point, if you have the time, we strongly encourage you to cover the strata with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight to allow the bread to soak up the egg mixture and so the flavors can meld.
- Bake the strata until set, 30 to 35 minutes. (If you refrigerated the strata overnight and are baking it straight from the fridge, you may need to allow a few extra minutes baking time.)
- Let the strata cool slightly. Grind a little pepper over the top, if you please, and sprinkle with chives, if using. Plonk the baking dish on the table and scoop the strata straight from it onto plates. Originally published March 26, 2012.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love making this type of make-ahead breakfast meal where I can get it ready at night and in less than 30 minutes, it’s ready for my daughters to eat in the morning prior to going to school.
I didn’t have mortadella, but I had smoked turkey slices which I used. Loved how the asparagus was nice and crunchy, yet the rest was moist and tasty.
So little work for such great taste! The ingredients are so straightforward and the assembly is so easy. Perfect for breakfast, brunch or a light supper.
The two things that place this strata above others are the use of very good artisan bread and the Fontina cheese. You can easily substitute other cheeses and it would still be wonderful, but the Fontina is so creamy and has such good flavor that I’d make sure to use it. And you could use artichokes or other veggies, but the asparagus adds a brightness to the dish. If making it without meat, it would be good served with some thick bacon slices on the side for those who prefer meat. Next time, I’ll try it with prosciutto.
This was an excellent make-ahead recipe. I doubled it, let it rest in the fridge overnight, cooked it in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and it baked perfectly in just over an hour.
I used sourdough and omitted the asparagus. Will definitely make again as it’s a great way to use up leftovers.
This asparagus, egg and cheese strata is a very familiar recipe. As with others of its type, it’s assembles easily and cooks quickly. The asparagus stalks add a nice texture, extra flavor, and visual appeal to the mix. Rather than peeling the ends of them, I’d snap the ends off so they can fit in the pot before peeling (if peeling is necessary).
I like the mortadella option and used it in my casserole. If using prosciutto, you may want to julienne the slices as it can sometimes be a little tough to cut through.
The custard part was just lovely—rich but light. At first, I thought there might be too much cheese (a phrase I can hardly believe I just wrote), but the Fontina didn’t overwhelm. I loved the nuttiness that comes from using whole-grain bread. Everything fit perfectly in a four-cup oval Le Creuset casserole dish.
I ground up the bread crusts in the food processor and sprinkled them on top about 5 minutes before the strata was done. I didn’t waste any good bread bits and got an extra crunch to boot. Next time—and there will be a next time–I might cut the asparagus into smaller bits to make serving and cutting on the plate a bit easier. As for the serving size, it’s a very generous 2-person amount in my opinion and feel it could serve 4 people for a lunch with a big salad on the side.
This is a delicious dish but quite rich. If I was to make the recipe again, I’d probably reduce the amount of cheese and add a bit more asparagus or some other vegetable. It seems like 8 ounces of cheese for 2 people is rather a lot. I think that the recipe, as written, could easily feed 3 to 4 people.
I used some homemade artisan bread and only used about 2 slices so having the weight specified in the recipe was helpful.
It seems like preparing the dish the night before is just an option. I made the recipe and baked it the same evening. I didn’t use the mortadella or prosciutto.