Post by Alison Hein.
We recently had a major garden renovation, with a tight timeframe for completion. One morning, in an effort to speed the finish, our landscape designers sent a group of six hard workers. It turned out to be an unseasonably cold morning, and as I looked out from inside my warm and cozy house and watched these guys toiling, my feelings of guilt turned to recipe inspiration.
I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to offer them a little bite of hot food for energy and warmth? Something savory, perhaps, with a little cheese, a little bread, a little spice. Something breakfasty, fast, and easy to eat. Something to accompany a good hot cup of strong coffee.
Why not a take on bread pudding, with a savory Italian twist enhanced by salty pancetta and a touch of parmesan? A little sautéing, a little chopping, and a little baking later, my Pancetta Breakfast Bake was done. I sliced it into little squares, and brought it out to my valiant landscapers.
A warming little break from hard work for them, a warming little breakfast in bed for you.
5 ounces fresh leaf spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
½ loaf stale French or Italian bread4 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Grease a 9×9-inch baking dish and set aside. Wash, trim and dry spinach. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add spinach and cook until lightly wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Spread spinach evenly in the prepared dish. Add remaining olive oil to same pan, and sauté pancetta, shallot and minced garlic over medium heat until softened and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut or tear bread into bite-sized cubes (should be around 3 cups). Spread bread cubes out evenly on top of the spinach. Arrange the sautéed pancetta, shallot and garlic on top of the bread cubes.
Add eggs and milk to large bowl and whisk until slightly thickened. Whisk in Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, basil, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes to allow bread to absorb liquid. Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly puffed up and the top is golden brown.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.