Brunch Recipe: Pancetta & Cinnamon Ricotta Casserole

Does your heart skip a beat at the thought of cinnamon French toast with a side of bacon? This weekend, skip the middle man with this creamy, gooey, crunchy and just-slightly-savory casserole. It practically begs to be front and center at your next brunch.
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Diced pancetta, bacon's slightly sweeter Italian cousin, is the undercover star of this dish. After being cooked in a bit of olive oil, it's layered into the mix, providing a savory, salty foil to the eggy bread and cinnamon and brown-sugar laden ricotta.

The overnight soak allows the casserole to take on a trifecta of textures. The bottom bread gets gooey with the flavors of cinnamon and vanilla, the ricotta seeps in between the bread cubes and, after baking, the top crust gets crunchy and golden brown. Best eaten warm, this casserole is the perfect one-dish weekend indulgence.

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Breakfast Casserole with Pancetta and Cinnamon Ricotta
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 pound pancetta; diced
1 small ciabatta loaf, thinly sliced
1/2 pound ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon; divided
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Butter an 8 x 8-inch casserole dish and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and cook the pancetta 5-7 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Fold together ricotta, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, vanilla and dark brown sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together the 5 eggs, half and half and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Place a layer of ciabatta in the prepared pan. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the bread. Sprinkle cooled pancetta over top. Layer the remaining bread slices over top. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the casserole from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Preheat the oven to 350 F and bake 40 minutes or until the custard is set. Serve warm.

Related: Best Served Hot: What is Your Favorite Casserole?

(Images: Rebekah Peppler)