All-Time Classic Casserole for Cozy Winter Brunches

Having everyone over for brunch on a frosty winter weekend? No need to get up at 5 a.m. this time around. Whip up this classic brunch casserole featuring bread, pancetta, Gruyere cheese and eggs. It’s simple, delicious and – hallelujah! — You can put it together the night before.


This rich, satisfying favorite is easy to prepare for small or large groups and even better when you’re entertaining overnight guests.


How easy is this? You throw all ingredients into a dish the night before, letting the bread to soak up the egg-and-milk mixture overnight, and then bake it in the morning. It’s perfect for a party, since you don’t have to stand at the stove making individual omelettes or batches of pancakes.

This recipe is a new version of the gooey cheddar-and-sausage casseroles a lot of us grew up with. Gruyere is a key ingredient, but even fancier cheeses can be used. We like challah bread as the base. Caramelized onions add a touch of sweetness.


Serves 6 to 8 

  • 4 cups cubed day-old challah or other egg-enriched bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 8 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, diced
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)


Cut bread into ¾ inch cubes. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish (or another 1.5 quart to 2-quart baking dish) and spread the cubed bread in the bottom.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another heavy skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat and sauté the pancetta until the fat is almost all rendered out and it starts getting crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate.

Whisk the eggs, milk, dry mustard, nutmeg, thyme, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pepper together in a large bowl.

Spread the pancetta over the bread cubes. Layer the onions on top. Sprinkle the grated Gruyère on next, and then pour the egg mixture over all layers.

Press down on the top gently, so that all of the bread cubes get soaked a bit with the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Take the casserole out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm on the counter while the oven preheats.

Bake, uncovered, until the edges bubble and the top browns, about 35 to 50 minutes. Baking time will vary depending on the depth of dish you use. Check the interior with a knife; if it comes out clean, the bread custard is baked through. If you notice the top is browning but the center isn’t fully baked, top with tinfoil for the last several minutes.


  • The casserole can be assembled, covered tightly with aluminum foil, and refrigerated overnight before baking. You can also put it together and bake it right away. If making ahead, bring to room temperature before baking.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Makes a great snack!


Getting friends and family together this season? The catering pros at Jerry’s Kitchen can help you with all the details. Whether you’re hosting a birthday party, anniversary, family reunion or corporate event, our catering services team will make everything easy – and so, so delicious.

To arrange catering services for your private or business event near Doylestown or Philadelphia, call us today.


The Kitchn

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