I love gathering people for brunch. It’s laid back. No one is expecting a perfectly plated affair. Sweets are part of the main course (<— probably my favorite reason). And it’s a great excuse to have a midday cocktail on a weekend.
I recently partnered with my friend Kelley of Haviland Events on an Italian themed brunch. It featured this Savory Caprese Bread Pudding, in addition to a few other Italian-themed brunch dishes.
Kelley was our wedding planner (I honestly can’t recommend her enough!) and now I’m so thankful to have her as a friend—a friend with an enviable dish collection and an eye for designing the most gorgeous tablescapes.
Kelley is an avid dish collector, and her collection includes a beautiful set of handmade dishes from Italy. Some even survived a trip back to the U.S. in her suitcase! She set up the table for our brunch with linens and dishes while I got to work on the menu.
Bread pudding is usually served for dessert. Chocolate, rum raisin, pumpkin—it gets doctored up and sweetened in a variety of ways. I love the texture, which is soft and gooey on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside. A sweet bread pudding might be next on my list!
This bread pudding, however, takes a savory turn. I made it with a loaf of Italian bread, halved grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and shredded mozzarella. Then I poured beaten eggs and milk over the top, let the bread soak it all in, and baked it. The result is a treat for fans of the caprese salad—a custard-like interior with gooey cheese and a crunchy top, with tons of flavor from the tomatoes and basil.
And it’s so easy to make! It’s one of those chop and assemble type dishes, and can be made the night before or 30 minutes before you want to bake it. This recipe serves 6–8 guests, though you could easily double it for a crowd.
To get those pretty strands of basil on top, I first stacked several large basil leaves on top of each other. Then I rolled them into a cigar shape, and thinly sliced them with a knife. The result is a gorgeous, confetti-like garnish. Torn basil leaves on top would be pretty, too!
I served the Caprese Bread Pudding in a 13×9 inch baking dish, though any 2 quart dish would work well. To go with it, we had Italian Sausage Breakfast Patties, Gluten Free Zucchini Olive Oil Muffins, and a Rosemary Clementine Cocktail.
No brunch would be complete without coffee, so Kelley brewed some Caffe Kimbo Espresso Napoletano in the cutest Italian stovetop espresso maker. We enjoyed Trader Joe’s Soft Bite Mini Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti with it.
What’s your favorite brunch dish to make or eat? This one is pretty close to the top of my list, though I do love a good old fashioned egg casserole!
Savory Caprese Bread Pudding
Yield 6–8 servings
- 1 (1 lb) loaf of Italian bread
- 3 cups milk
- 8 eggs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 1½ cups shredded mozzarella
- ¼ cup fresh basil, in a chiffonade, divided
- Using a serrated knife, cut the bread into 1 inch cubes. Using the same serrated knife, cut the tomatoes in half.
- Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Whisk milk, eggs, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the cubed bread, tomatoes, mozzarella, and half the basil. Toss gently to combine.
- Pour the mixture in a 2 quart baking dish (13x9 inch) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Top with the remaining basil and serve.
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