Thursday, March 28, 2024

Lemon Ricotta-Stuffed French Toast Casserole with Strawberry Basil Compote

I love a big Easter dinner with lamb and asparagus and potatoes and rolls. But my husband has to go to work at 11 a.m. on Easter, so instead, I will be hosting an Easter brunch. And I have French toast on my mind. But not just any French toast—I’m thinking about Lemon Ricotta-Stuffed French Toast Casserole with Strawberry Basil Compote.

There are two routes you can take with brunch—you can eat a healthy well-balanced meal or you can eat a carb and sugar heavy meal that makes you want to crash and take a nap. This recipe is somewhere in between the two, which is just the way I like it. I was very careful with limiting the amount of added sugar in this recipe. French toast gets a reputation for being overly sweet, but it doesn’t have to be. The savoriness of the ricotta cuts down on the sweetness as does the basil flavor in the compote. Also, I used a sourdough French baguette because the earthy tanginess of the sourdough complements the rich filling so well.

You don't want to use fresh bread for this recipe. It will end up mushy. Either dry the bread out in the oven beforehand or use bread that's a few days old. I recommend prepping everything  at least one day and up to two days in advance so the bread has plenty of time to soak up the liquid. Plus, it will make your life a lot easier if all you have to do in the morning is put this in the oven.

For the compote, you can use fresh or frozen strawberries. You'll just have to cook it longer if going the frozen route. I infused the strawberry compote with basil because the savoriness of the herb works well with the ricotta, and basil is a great pairing with lemon and strawberries. Of course, you could make a compote with another type of berry or skip it completely, but I think it really completes the dish!

Lemon Ricotta-Stuffed French Toast Casserole with Strawberry Basil Compote

Yield: Makes about 6 servings

Time: About 1 hour


For the compote

  • 20 basil leaves
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen strawberries, stems removed
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

For the filling

  • 16 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the egg mixture

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 demi French baguettes (or 1 1/2 regular baguettes)


For the compote

  1. Tie basil leaves in piece of cheesecloth.
  2. Combine all ingredients in saucepan over medium-low heat. 
  3. Bring to simmer and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, occasionally mashing fruit.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove bag of basil.
  5. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week.

For the filling

  1. Mix together all ingredients. Set aside.

For the egg mixture

  1. Mix together eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Prepare 8-inch x 10-inch (or similar size) baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Cut each baguette into 1-inch slices, cutting to, but not through, bottom.
  4. Spoon filling between baguette slices and place baguettes side-by-side in baking dish.
  5. Pour egg mixture over baguettes.
  6. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days in advance. I like to periodically drain the egg mixture into a bowl and pour it back over the top. 
  7. Remove baking dish from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain off any egg mixture that hasn't been soaked up by the bread.
  8. Bake uncovered for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until French toast is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. If needed, cover with foil and bake another 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and serve with strawberry basil compote and more ricotta and lemon zest if desired.

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