I love to cook, but I never follow recipes and I am extremely impatient. I would never have been able to make this Pizza Strata without a recipe and it is the perfect meal to make for guests. I hate being tied up in the kitchen while guests are over, so this strata can be completely prepared either the night before or the morning of a dinner party and then just popped in the oven an hour before you want to eat. Served with a simple salad and some brownies or ice cream for dessert, the strata looks and tastes like the main event. And, if you have friends with young children, I’m pretty sure this would make foodies of all ages very happy.
Additionally, it is versatile and tastes just as delicious eaten as leftovers. You could leave out the pepperoni if you are a complete vegetarian and, as I ate some right out of the baking dish the next day, I found that it was perfect as a cold snack. Reheating is unnecessary.
On to the recipe.
I roasted the tomatoes the night before and refrigerated them overnight. I used 6 huge “Ugly” heirlooms instead of the 10 plums the recipe calls for.
(I did a bit of improvising when I made this. Forgive me.)
I really like to prep. While the tomatoes were roasting for three hours, I prepared the ricotta/spinach mixture, pepperoni, and cubed the loaf of Italian bread so it was all ready to assemble in the morning. Disclaimer: I did not toast the bread like the recipe said to do for two reasons. Reason #1: I forgot. Reason #2: the breakfast strata my family makes once a year doesn’t call for toasting so I decided that this would be a bit of an homage to that (after I forgot). Maybe the Almost Meatless ladies can comment on why I should have toasted the bread.
Since the recipe called for the assembled strata to sit for 1 hour minimum but overnight if possible, I decided to put everything together in the morning and let it sit in the fridge all day until I was ready to bake it for dinner. Layered in the baking dish were the cubed bread, ricotta/spinach/pepperoni mixture, other cheeses (mozzerella and provolone), and roasted tomatoes. Poured over top was a mixture of eggs and milk.
After one hour, it came out of the oven looking like this (see below). My husband even commented before he tasted it: “If anything else, this is a really great-looking meal.” It was also really yummy: crisp and crunchy on top, cheesy and gooey in the middle, with the bread soaking up all of the egg and the tomatoes making it moist but not wet. In retrospect, if I were to do anything differently, it would be to cut the pepperoni in smaller pieces so that its flavor permeated more of the strata.
This is the kind of recipe you want to make over and over. It’s comfort food. It’s versatile. It looks and tastes really great. And being an impatient, improvising, perfectionist, I’ll be practicing my technique on this strata for a long time.