• We wanted a flavorful casserole with a crisp top and a soft, custardy inside. Here’s what we discovered: shopping list
  • Test Kitchen Discoveries shopping list
  • Even when staled in the oven overnight, white bread soaked up too much custard and turned to mush. toasted Italian bread greatly improved the texture. shopping list
  • Using whole milk instead of half-and-half or cream kept the casserole light and fluffy; incorporating a minimal amount ensured the dish remained firm. shopping list
  • You want enough cheese and sausage to flavor the dish, but not so much that you are left with a greasy, soggy mess. shopping list
  • Some recipes we tasted contained pockets where certain ingredients tended to congregate. We staggered the bread, sausage, and cheese mixtures in multiple layers. Building the casserole with care helped ensure every bite had flavor. shopping list
  • To guarantee the custard soaked in evenly, we covered the prepared casserole with plastic wrap and weighed it down for up to 24 hours. shopping list

How to make it

  • You can find unsliced loaves of Italian bread in the bakery section of your supermarket. Frank’s RedHot is the test kitchen’s top-rated hot sauce. If using a spicier sauce such as Tabasco, reduce amount to 1½ teaspoons.
  • 1 (14-inch) loaf italian bread (see note), ends trimmed
  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausage , casings removed
  • 1 small onion , chopped fine
  • 3 cups shredded fontina cheese
  • 12 large eggs , lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (see note)
  • 1. TOAST BREAD Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bread in half lengthwise, then slice each half crosswise into ½-inch-thick pieces. Spread bread in single layers on 2 rimmed baking sheets and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping bread and switching and rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool 15 minutes.
  • 2. BROWN SAUSAGE Cook sausage in large skillet over medium heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil to sausage mixture.
  • 3. ASSEMBLE CASSEROLE Grease 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Shingle half of bread in prepared pan so that edges overlap slightly. Top with half of sausage mixture and 1 cup cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, remaining sausage mixture, and remaining cheese.
  • 4. SOAK AND WEIGHT Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in large bowl. Pour evenly over casserole. Wrap casserole with plastic and weight according to photos below. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
  • 5. BAKE CASSEROLE Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Let casserole stand at room temperature while oven is heating. Remove weights, unwrap casserole, and bake until the edges and center have puffed and top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.

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