Easy, economical, and loaded with filling protein, this pantry-based meal offers a modern twist on the traditional casserole and can be prepared the day before. Simply pop it in the oven when ready to eat!
Given this job I do, I have a tendency to tinker with recipes, never quite making the same thing the exact same way. This is how I continue to learn and discover new combinations that my family－and, hopefully, my readers－will enjoy.
When I first prepared this casserole many years ago, I was aiming towards a baked variation of huevos rancheros. I didn’t have the precise ingredients for what I had in mind, so the meal sort of evolved.
One of my requirements was night-before or morning-of assembly. I wanted to add to my repertoire of meals that would be ready to pop in the oven at the end of a busy day.
After preparing the dish that first evening, I had my doubts. The tortillas I used were a little dry and didn’t mold to the baking dish without cracking a few times. The eggs then ran underneath the tortillas, which was supposed to be the crust. I further questioned whether I used enough eggs and whether my family might end up preferring PB&Js!
As it turned out, the experiment worked. I loved it and my family raved－so much so, that my younger son (who was maybe 10 at the time) said, “Don’t change a thing!” In other words, he was telling me not to do my normal make-this-recipe-five-different-ways-before-you’re-willing-to-share-it thing.
Sometimes, we must heed our children’s advice. So, instead of varying the spices, adding the green chilies I had been mulling over, and who knows what else, I made it again and again the very same way.
That said, before sharing this recipe, I felt compelled to add the green chilies that were always in the back of my mind. Everyone thought they were a stellar addition, including the now 18-year-old. (Where do the years go??)
Since the meal works both ways, I’ve included the chilies as an option. Note that with green chilies, the levels of mild, medium, and hot are similar to salsa. If you prefer little to no heat, make sure to buy mild. I added half the can, or one quarter cup. If you love the flavor, you could try adding the full can, increasing the baking time by a few minutes if needed. (As always, if you experiment with a recipe, please report back!)
As much as we love this dish for an easy dinner, it makes a delightful, savory breakfast or brunch that can be assembled the night before. I enjoy any leftovers gently reheated, although they may be served at room temperature－or even cold as my husband tends to like.
Reheating in the oven will assure the exposed tortilla edges stay crispy, but a microwave will get the job done more quickly. Just make sure not to overheat, as eggs can become rubbery when zapped too long.
The casserole is flavored by a modest half pound of sausage. If you purchase sausage in a one pound package, consider cooking it all and freezing half. That way, you’ll be able to assemble this meal for another night in mere minutes, no advance cooking necessary.
For those who might enjoy a healthy sausage option, I recommend this recipe, which starts with ground pork (or turkey) and incorporates the spices needed to taste just like traditional sausage, which contains ingredients some people like to avoid. The recipe is called Breakfast Sausage Patties, but you may use the mixture just as you would bulk sausage. Optionally, those who avoid meat altogether could experiment with one of the many plant-based sausage alternatives.
Three out of four people in my family love to top this casserole with avocado. My younger son’s technique, which I have adopted, has always been to mash the avocado slices with his fork in order to create an even layer over the top of his piece. Hot sauce may or may not be sprinkled, depending on the mood of the day. Salsa offers another complementary topping.
A crisp salad or green vegetable will bolster the meal, as will a simple side of fruit or crudités. In keeping with my original huevos rancheros concept, you could go the route of refried beans or this speedy, much-loved black bean salad.
- 5 small corn tortillas (could substitute flour tortillas if preferred and GF isn’t a requirement)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar, taco or Mexican blend cheese, divided
- ½ pound pork or turkey sausage, removed from casings and browned
- 6 large eggs
- ½ cup (120ml) milk (nonfat, 2% or whole)
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- ¼ cup (half a 4.5-ounce can) chopped green chilies
- 1 small jalapeño pepper or pickled jalapeño slices
- For serving: salsa, sliced avocado, hot sauce
Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.
Place four tortillas over the bottom of the dish. (They will overlap just a bit and likely leave a little open space right in the middle of the dish, which is ok.) Allow the tortillas to extend up the sides of the dish by about an inch. Cut the fifth tortilla in half, and then cut each half into strips. Set the strips aside.
Sprinkle ½ cup of the cheese over the four tortillas, and then top with the cooked sausage.
In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, oregano, salt, pepper, and optional chopped green chilies; whisk to thoroughly combine. Pour over the mixture in the baking dish, and then arrange the cut tortilla strips on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
If using the jalapeño pepper, thinly slice it and distribute the rounds over the cheese. (For less heat, slice the pepper in half first and remove the seeds and veins. Then slice the two halves and evenly distribute the pieces.)
Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
When ready to eat, allow the casserole to sit on the counter while the oven preheats to 350℉. Bake the covered casserole for 30 minutes, or until the center is just short of set.
Uncover, and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the center of the casserole is just cooked through.
Allow the casserole to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Serve as is or with optional toppings of choice.
Cook a full pound of sausage, use half in this recipe, and then freeze the other half (cool first) for a super easy casserole another day.