Put four favorite breakfast ingredients – ham, eggs, cheese and bread – into one dish and you have the perfect morning wake-up call for a house full of guests.
Depending on what part of the country you're from, you might think of this as savory bread pudding, breakfast strata, or breakfast casserole.
No matter what you call it, this hearty make-ahead breakfast has everything going for it!
This casserole is made by layering triangles of white bread in a dish with diced ham, sliced tomatoes, and grated cheese. Pour some eggs whisked with milk over top, then send it to the fridge overnight.
What happens as the casserole sits is like magic.
The bread absorbs all the liquid, like a sponge. When baked, the top forms a delicious eggy crust while the middle stays soft and chewy. It's rich with tomatoes and melted cheese, and a little smoky from the ham.
Squares of this casserole slice neatly and lift from the pan cleanly. The individual layers look so impressive when served!
Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole
Look for loaves of bread at the store marked "toasting." These are generally firmer than other loaves of white sandwich bread. (And if you can't find toasting bread, just buy sandwich bread that seems fairly firm and substantial.)
If the tomatoes at the store don't look ripe, it's fine to skip them for this recipe.
You can substitute another melting cheese in place of the cheddar, if you want, like Swiss cheese or Monterey jack.
- Butter (for the dish)
- 1 loaf sliced white toasting bread
- 3/4 pound mild cheddar, grated
- 8 small tomatoes, or 16 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 thick slice (3/4 pound) flavorful baked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice (About 2 1/2 cups diced)
- 10 large eggs
- 3 cups whole milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Prepare the bread:
Butter a deep 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cut the bread slices on a diagonal to make large triangles. Fit as many triangles as you can in the bottom of the dish, cutting smaller pieces to wedge between the larger ones, if necessary, to completely cover the bottom.
Begin layering the casserole
Sprinkle the bottom layer of bread with half the cheese. Lay half the tomato slices here and there over top, and sprinkle with half the ham. Add another layer of bread, again cutting smaller pieces, if necessary, to make a solid layer. Sprinkle with all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining cheese, and the remaining tomatoes and ham. Cover with a third layer of bread. (You may have a few slices of bread leftover.)
Whisk together the eggs and milk:
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Pour the mixture carefully over the bread. With your hands, press the bread into the egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons cheese over top.
Cover and refrigerate.
Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or for up to 48 hours.
When ready to bake, let the dish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 375F. Remove the plastic wrap from the dish and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
Bake the casserole for 55 to 60 minutes,
or until it is puffed and golden brown and cooked through in the middle. A thermometer inserted into the center of the dish should register 160F. If the casserole needs to cook longer, cover it loosely with foil and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes.
Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes before cutting into squares