Or personal pan pizza strata.
Or pepperoni, mushroom, and caramelized onion strata with roasted tomatoes and extra cheese. A bit wordy, no?
I read a gazillion books in third grade to earn a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. Hundreds of pages for a 4 inch pizza made just for me that was delivered to the table in my own, you got it, personal pan. Sliced into 4 wedges (much too small to be considered slices) and with generally one topping and while everyone at the table was grabbing for slices from the large deep dish in the middle of the table, I was perfectly content with my very own pizza.
I wasn’t stoked about not having to share, because seriously what 8-year-old looks at a large pizza and thinks, ‘I got this‘. No one. It was the whole topping issue. There was no pleading or negotiating or compromising. Choosing my topping of choice was worth reading every last Babysitter Club book the library had to offer. I probably chose extra cheese or mushrooms.
There is no greater joy than ordering a pizza with just your favorite toppings and if you are lucky enough to find your pizza doppelgänger, holy smokes! have you hit the jackpot! I am still looking for a thin crust, extra cheese, mushrooms, onions, pepperoni, and jalapeño lover. I am always the one compromising because well, I can eat pizza any which way and what is with people and their aversion to mushrooms? Seriously, people!!!
For some unknown reason that is beyond my understanding, I can not order a pizza just for myself, on say, a Wednesday evening for dinner. Can not do it. Even if it means total control of toppings. It seems a bit too over the top and gluttonous for just one person and I have a strong association of pizza with celebratory dinners and Saturday night family dinners. Pizza is for crowds.
I, however, have zero issue making a personal pizza strata and enjoying it for an entire week for lunch. That seems completely sane and rational and turned out to be one of my best ideas yet.
Strata…savory bread pudding. But don’t call it pizza bread pudding. I learned that when you mention bread pudding in the same sentence with pizza, people tend to turn up their noses…so just confuse them with the word strata and move on. I made this version just to my liking, minus the jalapeños because some jackass (moi) ate them all and never replaced the empty jar. Someone in these parts really enjoys a plate of spicy nachos, too.
We are gonna have to do a bit of prep. It is all worth it in the end. I promise you this.
The bread will need to be stale and cubed. My bread was still rather fresh and needed a bit of time in a 300F oven to zap all its moisture. Worked like a charm.
Cherry tomatoes will need a bit of roasting … olive oil, salt, and high heat will get the job done.
Onions and mushrooms will need a bit of butter and low heat and a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of salt to reach max caramelization and loveliness.
A bit of prep…but nothing too crazy.
While the oven is roasting and the stovetop is caramelizing…you should chop the pepperoni, cube the mozzarella, shred the parmesan, and measure out the spices.
Look at those roasted tomatoes and and caramelized onions and mushrooms….told ya it would be worth the little bit of prep.
I think we got everything wrangled together. Eggs and dairy round out the whole shabang.
Let the party begin!
First things first. Eggs, milk, and half and half…all together and whisked until creamy and yellow. Follow with the herbs – basil, oregano, and crushed red peppers. Fresh or dried, use what you have. Don’t forget the salt and pepper! Whisk away.
Soak the bread in the egg and milk. I would recommend an appropriate size bowl. Wider vs deeper. I really stink at this step.
Get all the bread wet and let it soak.
On top of the soaked bread add all the fixins’ withholding a bit of parmesan for cheesy crusty perfection.
Gently fold it all together. You know what would be killer in this ? Green olives. Whole salty green olives. Next time.
All into a deep casserole dish and into the oven we go…
Ta-dah! Trust me, it tastes just as good as it looks. Total comfort food and acceptable Wednesday night fare (at least in my crazy ass brain).
Substitutes are acceptable and expected … improvise and riff away. It’s pizza, your way!
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2 cups)
- 4 cups mushrooms, quartered
- 1 medium to large onion, thinly sliced in half moons
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 6 cups cubed stale bread
- 3 ounces pepperoni, diced
- 8 ounces mozzarella, cubed
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups half and half
- 8 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil. Spread tomatoes out on baking sheet in an even layer and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes until the skins begin to char or blacken in spots and a lot of the moisture has evaporated. Remove from oven and set aside.
- While tomatoes are roasting, combine butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottom skillet and place over medium heat to melt butter. Add sliced onions and quartered mushrooms. Toss to coat with oil/butter.
- Let cook, untouched for 5 to 7 minutes. Toss. Let cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, untouched. At this point, add a pinch of salt and toss. Remove skillet from heat and add balsamic vinegar (keep head back). Toss to coat. Return skillet to heat and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until onions and mushrooms are browned and broken down (another 10 to 15 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large bowl (choose wide over deep if you have to pick) whisk together half and half and eggs. Whisk in basil, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Add cubed stale bread and toss gently to moisten all bread. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Gently fold in roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and mushrooms, pepperoni, mozzarella, and half of the shredded parmesan cheese to the egg and bread mixture.
- Grease a 2½ quart baking dish with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer strata into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining half of parmesan cheese. Place in 400F oven and let bake until strata is set at the center and golden brown and cheese is bubbly around the edges. About 25 to 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving. This can be stored in fridge and reheated the next day in the microwave or in a 350F oven for 10 to 15 minutes until warm at the center.
*adapted from Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence