Torta Rustica

December 7th, 2009

We will be returning to Lake Lure for Christmas. It is exciting to contemplate cold snowy weather, a roaring fire and a fresh Frasier Fir tree decorated with our collection of ornaments from the past. One of our Christmas traditions has always been a breakfast casserole. I have experimented with many versions over the years and yesterday I experimented with this version from Bon Appetit. I love it. Most breakfast casseroles incorporate the bread cubes into the mixture. In this case there is a layer of sourdough baguette slices on the bottom and up the sides of the casserole. The outside slices get nicely crisp and the sausage, egg mixture is nestled in the center. It is full of green spinach and roasted red peppers which give it a festive appearance. This is what I will be fixing for Christmas morning. I have a feeling it will become our traditional dish for many years to come.


16 1/4 inch thick sourdough baguette slices, cut on slight diagonal
1 Tablespoon butter
12 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 1/2 cups grated Fontina cheese, divided
3/4 cup diced drained roasted red peppers (from 12 ounce jar)
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk (I used skim)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 X 8 X 2 baking dish. (I used a 12 X 8 X 3 inch dish and found it to be just perfect). Place 8 baguette slices in bottom of dish, press remainder of slices around sides.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Add spinach, toss until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer spinach to strainer; cool. Squeeze spinach dry. Transfer to medium bowl.

Heat same skillet over medium high heat. Add sausage. Saute until cooked through, breaking up, about 7 minutes. Mix into spinach; mix in 1 cup sheese and peppers. Spread atop baguette slices in bottom of dish.

Whisk eggs in medium bowl to blend. Whisk in last 4 ingredients. Pour over spinach mixture and stir lightly with fork to distribute evenly. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over.

Bake torta until puffed and golden and center is set, about 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Note: Most breakfast casseroles can be assembled the night before and baked it the morning. I have not tried that with this casserole. I will probably fry the sausage, saute the spinach, slice the bread and dice the peppers the night before and assemble the dish in the morning.

21 responses to “Torta Rustica”

  1. Good for you! I don’t think I would like celebrating Christmas in a warm climate. This torte sounds WONderful. Will give it a try.

  2. Susan says:

    Love it, love it, love it! Can almost taste it. Safe trip to Lake Lure.

  3. Penny, I think you have a winner here. Nothing taste better with sausage & eggs than a crispy slice of toast. In this recipe it gives you that and more.

    Save travel back to Lake Lure and the beauty of the North Carolina Mountains.

  4. Kat says:

    Gosh that looks so darn good! Nice idea for Christmas breakfast! I am gonna have to give it a try!

  5. Sounds wonderful! We are in FL now, too! Have a nice trip back to the mountains!

  6. Oh, good … I like you at the cottage. Enjoy the season as it was meant, and want to see what you decorate… Another Kitchen reveal day maybe??

    And I love this breakfast pie… On my list

  7. Mary says:

    This looks wonderful for a late holiday breakfast.
    I love everything you’ve put into this and it has the added advantage of not being hard to do.

  8. Karen says:

    I can see why you make this each Christmas… it sounds delicious and even looks Christmas-y! My traditional Christmas morning food is homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate while we’re opening presents.

  9. That sounds wonderful Penny! What time are you serving breakfast? I will be right over :-).

    Seriously, it does sound wonderful. Have a safe trip up here and if you have time to get together, let me know.

  10. Lyla says:

    Looks like we’ll be sharing the same breakfast Christmas morning. Thanks so much. I love the idea of the bread making the crust. And I love fontina cheese. Thanks for another delicious and highly creative dish. How about serving it with “Mrs. Paul’s Sweet Rolls”? Love, Lyla

  11. This sounds so delicious-your family must love you! What a great kitchen also to work in.

  12. Great Torta Penny. I love using the sourdough. Lake Lure sounds perfect for Christmas. Enjoy.

  13. Lynda says:

    I’ve bookmarked this recipe, Penny; I have to try this delicious dish myself!

  14. Oh yum, that looks so good! Perfect for holiday breakie.

  15. Barbara says:

    Wonderful torta, Penny. Don’t you love fontina cheese? It melts beautifully.
    (You described my sister almost exactly in your comment to me. She has a home in Spring Lake and a cabin in Leland with a view of Lake Leelanau. Is it possible you know her?)

  16. Katy ~ says:

    Ooooh does this look good good good!! We’re expecting 6″ of snow starting tonight. I’ll send you some.

    You can thank me later, grins.

  17. I am totally making this for breakfast!
    Love, K

  18. kellypea says:

    What a gorgeous kitchen you have. The description of returning for the holidays sounds perfect. We aren’t exactly in a place where we get to do what you’ve described, but hope to enjoy that some day. A great recipe for a holiday breakfast. We love a good casserole here!

  19. BMK says:

    What a gorgeous dish! This looks perfect for Christmas morning.

  20. MarciaSmith says:

    So you are heading north for Christmas too!! It is funny that we do the same thing – will head to Maine on the 20th- you have a great trip and I’ll be watching and reading- this breakfast cassarole sounds great!!!

  21. […] The torta is an Italian version of a quiche.  The flavor additions include Mozzarella and Parmesan instead of Swiss or Gruyere, Italian seasonings instead of a hint of nutmeg and a pine nut or almond topping.  The spinach, eggs, roasted red peppers and cream round out the dish.  Since I was in a hurry I used a store bought pie crust, but you could certainly make your own or leave it out completely.  I actually made another version of this torta a few years ago that is also great to make ahead of time for a brunch party.  Here is the link. […]

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