RECIPE

Bring the iconic flavors of cacio e pepe to breakfast with this new under-30 minute dish

A decadent mixture of heavy cream, parmesan cheese and pepper elevate day-old bread in this elevated strata recipe

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Published January 22, 2022 2:30PM (EST)

Cacio e pepe strata (Ashlie Stevens)
Cacio e pepe strata (Ashlie Stevens)

The influence of cacio e pepe — the Italian pasta dish that roughly translates to "cheese and pepper" — has spread to all corners of the supermarket. There are cacio e pepe potato chips, flavored with parmesan cheese dust and ground black pepper; butter-heavy cacio e pepe doughnuts; and new recipes to shop for like Mary Elizabeth Williams' cacio e pepe pie

What is it about this dish that has so enamored eaters? I think, like much good Italian cooking, the answer is found in its simplicity. Most recipes call for only a few ingredients: pasta (and pasta water), cheese, cracked pepper and perhaps a few pats of butter. From that short list, you get heat, salt, spice, umami, a little funk and a lot of creaminess. 

RELATED: I tried to make cacio e pepe for dinner and it was a disaster — here's how to avoid the same mistake

Though this breakfast strata slightly expands the ingredient list, it remains simply delicious.

For this recipe, I tend to use whatever almost-stale bread I have on hand, but breads that have buttery layers (day-old brioche or croissants) or are a little sour (sourdough or French and Italian loaves) make solid choices. Try to avoid anything too dense or seedy.

Feel free to add additional ingredients. Cooked and chopped bacon would be delicious, as would a springy mixture of buttery leeks and mushrooms. However, simplicity is the key to this recipe, so try not overload it so those base flavors can really shine.

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Recipe: Cacio e Pepe Strata

Yields
4 servings
Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook Time
12-15 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces (approximately 2/3 cup) hand-torn bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper, plus more for garnish
  • Salt to taste 
  • Butter (for greasing ramekins or baking dish) 
  • Optional: Chives or parsley for garnish 
     

 

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and heavy cream until completely combined. Add the parmesan, black pepper and salt to taste and whisk until a very loose, liquidy "paste" is formed. 
  2. Add the torn bread to the bowl and gently stir until all of the pieces are coated. Set the bowl aside and allow the bread to soak for about 5 minutes, so it can absorb the egg mixture. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  3. Coat four individual ramekins or one baking dish with butter, then fill them equally with the bread mixture.
  4. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. The top of the strata should be a crisp golden brown, and there should be no liquid egg visible in the ramekins or dish. Remove the ramekins from the oven and allow them to rest on the countertop for 5 minutes. 
  5. It's time to garnish! Sprinkle a little extra grated parmesan cheese and black pepper on top of the strata. Finely chopped chives or parsley would also add a nice pop of color. 

Cook's Notes

I like baking the strata in four individual ramekins, but feel free to put it all in one 8x5" baking dish instead. 

 

More of our favorite Italian-inspired recipes:

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Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's deputy food editor.

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Breakfast Cacio E Pepe Food Recipe Strata