Looking for a make-ahead dish you can serve at a brunch party? This Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Strata can be prepped the day before so all you have to do in the morning is pop it in the oven! Plus, it's a crowd pleasing dish packed with eggs, sausage, spinach, and cheese.
I have a confession to make: I am a very nervous entertainer. Of course, I don't claim to be Martha Stewart over here at We are not Martha. I just claim that I strive to be like her. And entertaining is one thing I'm definitely striving to be better at. And in my mind, entertaining is something that gets easier, the more you do it. So, I keep trying. Family is perfect to practice on because they don't judge too much if you screw everything up (right?!).
Brunch can be the most difficult meal to entertain for because it generally involves people coming over early. So, you either have to wake up at dawn or have a really good plan instead. I invited my family over last weekend (my parents, sister, and her husband) and then started freaking out a bit. What could I make that would be ready at the same time? For 10 a.m.? And that I could serve hot? With as little stress as possible? Because if you know me, you know I'm often found running around like a chicken with my head cut off the second my guests arrive. And then I end up having no fun when I have guests over. Sigh.
I asked my Twitter buddies what I should make for brunch and when Roving Lemon sent me Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Spinach and Cheese Strata, I knew it would be perfect because a) everything Smitten does is gold and b) I could make it the night before and just pop it in the oven in the morning. Fabulous! I made a bunch of changes, including adding a spicy sausage to the strata... Which I personally think was an excellent decision.
This ENTIRE strata can be prepped the night before and then stuck in the fridge. Which means when you wake up the morning of your brunch party, breakfast is essentially ready and just needs to be popped in the oven.
For this brunch, I also made another Smitten Kitchen recipe, for Whole Wheat Apple Muffins. Muffins are another great make-ahead brunch dish. Oh, and I made bacon. Obviously. My family really doesn't eat breakfast without bacon. Even with sausage in the strata, we still need bacon on the side!
My apartment was starting to smell really good by the time everyone arrived.
This was the most people Chris and I had had over yet in our new apartment yet! Until last night when we had 9 people over (my relatives are in town!), but I didn't cook for them.
Everything was delicious. OK, so the sausage strata may not have been the prettiest thing in the world, but it was certainly very tasty and perfect for a delicious brunch. I was super happy I added in the sausage!
And that was entertaining done easy. I highly recommend you choose a brunch entree that can be prepared the night before if you freak out about entertaining, too. It also doesn't hurt when you have amazing guests who offer to help! I actually got to sit with my family and enjoy the meal and conversation instead of running around like a crazy woman.
Another tip? When you invite people over for brunch, it will FORCE you to finish unpacking all the boxes you've been avoiding for 3 weeks. Everything is finally unpacked; now we just need to start hanging things on the walls (baby steps here!). Luckily, we had some leftover sausage strata in our fridge that has been fueling me to get our of bed in the morning and get moving!
What's your favorite stress-free brunch dish for entertaining?
Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Strata
- 14 oz. fresh spinach (you can substitute for frozen spinach, thawed)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage (is sausage has casing, remove)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 Tbsp black pepper, divided
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 8 cups cubed French or Italian bread
- 2 cups freshly grated gruyere cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups milke (I used whole)
- 9 large eggs
- 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
- If using fresh spinach, start by steaming it down. Rinse with cold water and while leaves are still wet, place in a large pot over high heat. Cover pot and let cook for 3-4 minutes, until just steamed down.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook while breaking up with a spoon or spatula until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage to a bowl and set aside, leaving sausage grease in pan.
- Add chopped onion to pan and cook until soft, for about 5 minutes. Add ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and nutmeg and cook for another minute. Stir in spinach and remove pan from heat.
- Generously butter a 3 quart baking dish (I used 9x13) and spread ⅓ of the cubed bread on the bottom of the dish.
- Top bread with ⅓ of the spinach/onion mixture, ⅓ the sausage, and ⅓ of each cheese. Repeat until all ingredients are gone.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, dijon mustard, remaining ½ tsp salt, and remaining ½ tsp pepper.
- Pour the egg mixture evenly over the baking dish. Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and up to a day.
- When ready to enjoy, remove from fridge and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then place, uncovered, in oven at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
- Note that recipe prep time does not include 8 hours chilling time for strata.
- Recipe lightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
This looks AMAZING. I think I'm going to add it to our dinner menu next week... yum, I can't wait.
What a great spread! Brunch is my favorite meal- hands down! The strata and the fresh fruit look amazing. I like doing homemade parfaits with homemade granola too! Yum!
Cooking with Coley says
Nice way to start the day! I could go for a watermelon cocktail right now to kick off the weekend.
this looks DELICIOUS. and i love that bacon is a non-negotiable 🙂
Yes! I told you, entertaining is the best way to force yourself to unpack! And that strata looks awesome; we host a brunch on New Year's Day-so things that can be done in advance are basicaly the only things we serve-strata is always on the menu 🙂
@Adrienne Yes! I was trying to remember who gave me that advice. It TOTALLY worked! Like a charm 🙂
Fun and Fearless in Beantown says
I'm like you and totally stress out about entertaining. One of my best friends from home lives in SF and is in town. I'm having her and her wife over for dinner next Tuesday for her birthday dinner and I started to stress about getting something wonderful together after work. But I got organized, picked a few dishes that are easily prepared ahead of time, and remind myself that she would never judge me if things aren't perfect! Kudos to you for being so honest about what worries you!
This is almost exactly how I handle Christmas morning at our house. A strata made the day before, bacon cooked and reheated in the oven, fresh fruit and mimosas. Nice work! Your strata recipe sounds wonderful too!
Sues, I know how you feel! I hadn't cooked all summer and recently prepared apps and dinner for family in town. (6 people). I am not sure 9 would ever fit in my apt. but perhaps that's a blessing in disguise. your brunch looks amazing and so do those...umm watermosas? melonmosas? does the watermelon champagne drink have a name? 😉
lynn @ the actor's diet says
strata is my go-to big brunch (and sometimes dinner) dish. i make a veggie version that i like to call "erik e. strata" (after the actor from chips)
Susan Forshner says
I've personally experienced your hosting skills and I must beg to differ 🙂
That recipe does look amazing. I'm not an entertainer really, but I've always wanted to host a brunch for some reason, maybe it's because I love mimosas. One day I want to live in a place that has a porch where we could eat.
i always try to pick things that can be done ahead of time, great pick here!! looks delish, too 🙂
5 Star Foodie says
Strata is such a great brunch dish, and this looks terrific! Love the sausage in it!
Kim @ Two Good Cookies says
I love the idea of using the Italian sausage instead of regular breakfast sausage. Thanks for a great hosting idea!
my little expat kitchen says
Looks like you are GREAT at entertaining! Love the strata (looks are not important if it tastes good) and the rest of the goodies you served your guests. Good job! 🙂
Sues.... That strata was amazing! Kind of wishing I had a watermelon champagne cocktail for breakfast this morning. You should have mentioned the awesome sangria that Chris and Adam made with the left over fruit and champagne.... what a great morning!
Everything looks so delicious, especially the strata!
I take a similar approach -- I make a Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding (it's not very sweet or heavy, more similar to a baked french toast) that I make the night before, and then just serve it with a little bacon, fruit, and hash browns. No way I am flipping pancakes for people! We eat pancakes for dinner in this house...I am not a morning person.
Sophie @ yumventures says
Your brunch looks amazing! I hope you are enjoying your weekend 🙂
my mouth is watering over that Strata!
Great idea! It's lovely that you can make it ahead and bake right before company arrives.
Well done, Susie! 🙂 I've never hosted brunch - I would have the same concerns but you did great. I love that there was a "main entree", muffins and fruit salad... and of course cocktails. Plenty of variety but not a crazy amount of food either. I think the strata does look beautiful, btw! 😀
I love brunch!! You did an awesome job with this one, everything looks beautiful and delicious!! I love doing a frittata and a variety of baked goods, but I also love that you can have fun with drinks...different coffees, tea, cocktails, and hot chocolate for winter!
Smitten Kitchen's recipes are amazing. Glad your strata turned out so well...the brunch looks delish!
Aw brunch looks delicious. I definitely freak out about entertaining, and I'm not nearly the great cook you are so I shy away from it. But you are right I should just try to do it.
Alycia [Fit n Fresh] says
What an awesome spread!! I would have devoured it all! I'm sure your family really appreciated it. I'm not really in a time of my life where I entertain, but I so enjoy pretending 🙂
What a fabulous spread! I love that brunch is an excuse to get out the booze early too 🙂 I really love entertaining but always have a schedule for myself and make sure I do all the prep work I can the day before because otherwise I get really stressed out.
Everything looks perfect! You guys are no Martha but you dont fall too far behind!!!
sarah k. @ the pajama chef says
haha i'm like that when i have people coming over too! and in the 5 min before i leave everyday... maybe it's just how i am. haha looks great!
I love this! Do-ahead meals are always a win in my book. Your brunch looked amazing!
I know what you mean...I go crazy when I invite people over. This looks like the perfect make ahead meal...although I could probably eat the whole pan myself!
Stacey Snacks says
What a beautiful brunch!
I love stratas and bread puddings, great way to use up stale bread.
Beth @ DiningAndDishing says
Casseroles are the best for a stress-free brunch. We always make one on Christmas Day - but come to think of it I think that's the only time we do homemade brunch!
LOVE those watermelon cocktails. Fancy! 🙂
Nancy @ Roving Lemon's Big Adventure says
Hey! Thanks for the shout-out, and glad to see the strata and the brunch were both successful!
mmmmm that strata looks tasty! love that you can make it ahead of time too
Culinary Cory says
Wonderful brunch. No need to be nervous about entertaining. My trick is "it's all about the show". Just be adaptable to whatever hiccups are along the way and pretend you planned them all the time. It works every time for me.