I typically don’t make a lot of breakfast casseroles. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because I had a small family, I’m not a morning person (I should hashtag that!) and for years, although I have a few breakfast casseroles on my site, I love this Potato Cheese Strata. It’s kind of like my “signature” dish when I have overnight company, but it’s huge and more complicated. But now I have a “new” breakfast casserole, Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole. I’m kinda psyched about it.
For one thing, this casserole is delish and I’m a bit of a sucker for breakfast sausage (and if you’re not in the States and don’t have Breakfast Sausage, diced ham would be good in this, too). And I love that this isn’t a huge breakfast casserole. It’s just a perfect little very casual, family-sized breakfast casserole; six servings for normal people, two or three for my family. Well, my son was here. I don’t know how that kid is so skinny. He doesn’t get it from me. And he baked the casserole for me (and peeled my Cutie) bless his heart! And both Kraig & Tweetie, his girlfriend, took charge of my house, shoveled, cleaned, helped with all kinds of chores I’ve been putting off. And they even got me out for a short walk down the bike path next to my house. They’re the greatest!
About Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole:
But back to the food! This IS a food blog, after all! Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole is also super easy, which makes it super do-able to toss together any evening for any morning when you have enough time to bake it off. You gotta admit it’s nice to just toss something in the oven, go about your business. Shower, maybe read the paper (does anybody do that anymore?) Ok, maybe check your Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Stocks. Then when the oven beeps, pull breakfast out, steamy hot, all nice and golden brown with that perfect bit of little crustiness around the edges. I think I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
And ya gotta love that having a breakfast casserole like this makes breakfast just a bit more of an event. We, at least, are more likely to sit down together to eat rather than everyone fending for themselves. Ya gotta love the fact that a breakfast casserole like this makes the morning clean up super easy, too. Minimal dishes to deal with, no half-filled cereal bowls sitting around with stuff caked on the edges, no scrambled eggy pans. That’s a pet peeve of mine! Just a couple plates and forks, maybe a glass or cup for everyone.
Serve Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole with a little fruit and pass the hot sauce. And of course, if your fam needs to scatter to different events, a breakfast casserole is perfect to bake off and put out so everyone can serve themselves as the need arises. Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole is actually pretty sturdy and a piece could be picked up and eaten on the go, or be packed and reheated at work. It does reheat very well. I haven’t tried freezing any of it but image a piece or two could be stashed in the freezer and reheated, slowly in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel or a napkin.
Making Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole:
I absolutely love how tasty this casserole but I particularly love how tasty it is for so little work! You know if you’re a follower that I’m all about easy, these days – especially when easy has a high payoff. There’s basically no chopping unless you count a couple of herbs and maybe chopping (or tearing) the bread into chunks. I didn’t even cut off the crusts & it was just fine. The only thing that’s any work at all is browning the breakfast sausage. Clean up was minimized by mixing the eggs and milk right in the pan after the sausage was removed – let it cool a bit and put the milk in first.
The only hint I have for making this easier is to cook your sausage with water and use a potato masher to break it up. I’m not sure where I first came across the water idea but I use it often for both bacon and sausage. I add several tablespoons of water to the pan, add the sausage and then turn the burner on, slowly cooking the sausage. As it browns up, a potato masher makes short work of breaking it into pieces. In this case, I was aiming for some larger pieces, so I used the masher rather delicately but any kind of ground meat can be broken down very finely with a minimum effort with the masher.
Sausage can be a little bit of a challenge to cook and break up; you’ll notice right away that it’s easier to mash a section of sausage if you flip it so the browned part is on top, the raw on the bottom. When you try to mash the other way, the firmer browned part just slides around on the pan and you won’t be able to get through it.
When this casserole is tossed together, the herbs look like a LOT of herbs because they float to the top. Don’t stress, as the casserole is baked it puffs up and the cheese melts & the herbs kind of get folded in, so it’s really not as an obnoxious amount as it first seems. In a pinch, they could be eliminated but it is nice to get the bit of oniony flavor from the chives. If you don’t have them, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder or a few green onion slices. The white parts of the green onion can be dropped in with the sausage as it cooks, the green onion sprinkled over the top.
Saving Money on Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole:
Eggs are pretty much always a bargain and a great source of protein. The poor things were so vilified for so long! And I know everyone goes and on about farm fresh eggs, but truth be told eggs do have a pretty long shelf life. If you’re wondering how fresh your egg is, gently drop one in water. If it sinks to the bottom it’s very fresh, if the end turns up it’s a little older. If the whole egg floats to the top, it’s pretty old. Eggs shells are porous and the egg inside has aged, thickened a bit and shrunk. Nature abhors a vacuum so the air seeps in causes the older egg to be buoyant. It doesn’t mean the egg isn’t safe; these days you’ll rarely come across a rotten egg (I haven’t seen one in over 30, 35 years) it just means that the egg inside is pretty thick and I discard any true floaters.
I love a casserole like this that makes use of old bread. These days, we just don’t eat bread like we used to and I often have old bread around. It’s great too, that this casserole only needs a partial loaf which means at my house, at least, I can scare up enough for it. If your bread isn’t on the stale side, dry it in the oven at a low temperature. Usually, about 300 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes works well. Watch it closely.
Breakfast sausage, just like bacon, is another item to look for on sale around holidays. (Eggs, too!) and breakfast sausage, being pretty compact is a great freezer item. If you use it, pick it up on sale; at full price, it’s no bargain. And of course, regular old grocery store cheese like this should always be picked up on special. It keeps, unopened, for weeks and can be frozen. Beware, once frozen, it becomes crumbly and isn’t good for slicing and eating, but is fine for shredding.
Overnight Breakfast Sausage Casserole
- 6 to 7 slices good bread such as a sliced Italian bakery bread
- 1 pound of breakfast sausage, cooked and crumbled, mild or hot, your choice
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons chopped chives
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
- 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Generously spray or butter a 7 x 11″ baking dish.
Tear tear or cut bread into chunks and place them in the baking dish. Sprinkle sausage over bread.
Mix together the eggs, milk, mustard powder, salt, cayenne, herbs and pour over the bread. Top with grated cheese. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Place casserole into oven covered, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake, about 10 to 15 minutes longer, until eggs are set when tested (insert a knife in the center of the casserole and remove – should come out with no trace of raw egg, a bit of moisture is ok) and lightly golden brown.