This hearty sausage casserole recipe combines all of our favorite breakfast foods in one easy to cook dish. It's one of our favorites to cook for overnight guests, especially during winter when you need a hot breakfast to prepare you to face the weather!
It's ideal for any busy household because all the preparation is done in advance, so in the morning all you have to do is take the sausage breakfast casserole from the fridge and bake it for about an hour. And voila! Breakfast is served.
The best way to cook this is in a large casserole dish with a fitted lid (an enameled cast iron casserole dish is ideal). If you don't have one, you can make an electric slow cooker sausage casserole instead - just follow the same method.
It's really important that you follow the instruction to refrigerate your breakfast casserole overnight once you've constructed it. Believe me, we've often been tempted to just cook it right away, but it doesn't work. Leaving it to rest allows the egg mixture to fully penetrate all the space between the other ingredients, and soak into the bread layer so you get delicious fluffy eggy bread (a little like French toast).
The key to this easy breakfast casserole is the egg mixture, which cooks slowly and creates a fluffy texture which complements the sausage and adds body and richness to the dish. If you bake the egg and sausage casserole right after you've made it, you'll get a lot of overcooked egg stuck to your sausage meat and some burnt dry bread underneath. Hardly a breakfast fit for your well-loved guests!
We've tried using a few different types of sausage for this dish, and the best one we've found is a pork sausage with sage, which we get fresh from the butchers. If you prefer though, you can mix it up a bit - we've had good results using sausage meat with chili (if you like your breakfast casserole a little spicier than usual) and we've also used a pork/beef mix before, although arguably ground beef isn't a traditional breakfast food. But hey - neither is breakfast casserole anyway!
As with all recipes with sausage, if you don't eat beef or pork for dietary or religious reasons, there's no reason you can't substitute it with chicken or turkey sausage. Sage goes really well with poultry sausage as well as with pork.
Sausage casseroles are great dishes to experiment with, there's always room to add your own twist to the recipe. Here are a few ideas we've tried to vary the flavors of the dish, but once you've experimented with these, we're sure you'll add plenty of your own extra ideas!
For the meat: Try out different types of sausage - Italian works great, spicy sausages like merguez are interesting, we've even tried using a little Spanish chorizo (although mix it with some plain pork sausage or it's too garlicky!)
For the bread: How about a healthier breakfast casserole with bread such as wholemeal or seeded? You can also use leftover stale bread or bread rolls, as long as it's only around a day stale. Just cut or rip any leftovers into 1 inch chunks and you're good to go.
For the egg mix: You can experiment with different mustards - wholegrain adds a bit of texture or Dijon for a slightly different flavor profile. And for a richer breakfast casserole, try using full cream in place of half and half.