Pizza Strata

I don’t know what the weather is like in your area, but in mine, the temperatures are plummeting. It’s really really cold. I’ve spent the past few years living on the West coast, so these are temperatures I have not had to live with in a very long time; it’s been, and continues to be a (re)adjustment.

Apart of that readjustment is my leaning more towards cooking food that is hearty and stick-to-your-ribs. The kind that makes you want to burrow under a blanket and take a nap afterwards.

I spent most of my life in the Midwest, and in the Midwest, we love our pizza. We take it very seriously. I love to eat and also make it, and as I’ve shown on the blog before, that’s not necessarily always strictly in solely pizza ‘form.’ There are some pretty interesting ways to transfer the pizza ‘flavor’ to other dishes, which is what we’re doing here today.

This recipe happened for the reason that a lot of strata recipes happen; I had an excess of slightly stale bread in my fridge that I didn’t want to go to waste. I decided to make a strata, but rather than go the typical breakfast-y route with sausage/ham/bacon, I started thinking about other possibilities that could work.

This is where I ended up.

Right off the bat, I want to emphasize that this is NOT Chicago Style deep dish pizza, which is not a favorite of mine at all. A Chicago style pizza is a pie composed of mostly cheese, with some toppings and sauce thrown on top. This is a strata, where stale bread and veggies are baked and set in an eggy-milk mixture. Think a breakfast strata, but it’s pizza ‘flavored’.

Another thing I’ll say that this recipe is HUGELY customizable. I used pepperoni, bell peppers and onions as my ‘toppings’, but so long as you keep to the ratio of bread, eggs and milk, you can customize the rest of the recipe ingredients to whatever your personal tastes are for pizza.

One thing that surprised me about the finished product was that it wasn’t as ‘heavy’ as I expected it to be in eating it. The flavors were of course, still reminiscent of pizza, but my stomach didn’t feel as heavy as it does after I’ve eaten pizza. It was satisfying without bringing on the lethargy.

Plus, it’s pretty delicious, if I may say so myself.

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Pizza Strata

Recipe Adapted from Food52

Ingredients

  • 10-12 cups lightly packed garlic or herb flavored bread, slightly stale and cubed (I used leftover rolls from this recipe, but really any sturdy herb-y bread will work)
  • 16 large eggs
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 large sweet yellow onion
  • 6 oz. of sliced cooked pepperoni* (You can substitute mushrooms here to make this vegetarian, or even add 6 oz of mushrooms to the existing strata itself; feel free to use whatever are your favorite pizza toppings)
  • 14 oz. pizza sauce, plus more if desired
  • About 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more, if you prefer)

Directions

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil to medium heat. Saute first the bell peppers, then the onions until they are softened and translucent. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well combined and yolks are broken.

Spray a 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray.

Layer a third of the cubed bread in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of the peppers and onions. Add a layer of the pepperoni. Repeat until you’ve layered all the bread, vegetables and pepperoni in the dish.

Pour the egg-milk mixture over the strata, using a rubber spatula to ensure that it gets into the corners and absorbs all of the ingredients.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. (If chilling for later, let the strata sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before baking.) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drop large dollops of about half (7 oz) of the pizza sauce on top of the strata, using a spoon to spread it out a little.

Cover with aluminum foil, and bake the strata until puffed, golden brown around the edges, and set in the center, about 55-60minutes. (Insert a knife in the center; if it comes out clean and without eggy residue, it’s ready.)

Remove the strata from the oven, remove the foil, and preheat broiler.

Dollop the rest of the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle the top with as much cheese as desired. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling.

Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with additional pizza sauce is desired.

Sharing at Fiesta Friday #405.