A Whole Lotta Frittata!
Say arrivederci to food waste. With a few basic techniques, these Italian-style omelets are a home cook’s secret weapon in the war on leftovers.
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5 Ingredient Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Frittata; photograph by Olga Ivanova
One of my favorite food writers is Tamar Adler. Her manifesto-like meditation on eating “An Everlasting Meal” provides a framework for thinking about how to cook and how to eat that I make use of almost every day. She writes, “Great meals rarely start at points that all look like beginnings. They usually pick up where something else leaves off. That is how most of the best things are made — imagine if the world had to begin from scratch each dawn: a tree would never grow.” In other words, most meals, great and small, start from leftovers.
To me, no dish exemplifies that spirit of frugality more than the humble frittata, an omelet Italian-style, filled with eggs and cheese and whatever it is you like to eat inside. Yes, you can make a frittata without leftovers, blanching vegetables and grating cheese into beaten egg and frying them in oil until they take form into a delicious pie-shaped, crust-free quiche.
But the frittata really shines when used as a vehicle for leftovers. Got some roasted carrots and broccoli from yesterday’s farmers market dinner? Veggie frittata for lunch! Didn’t manage to finish all your spaghetti in meat sauce? Make a spaghetti frittata! Got some leftover kebabs and pickles from the Middle-Eastern restaurant? Bind them with egg, set them over medium heat in a cast-iron pan and you’ll have transformed and elevated your cast-away remnants into a meal that may be even more satisfying than the ingredients were the first time around. A brunch frittata is even good at room temp a few hours later — your leftovers can be leftovers too.
Best of all, the frittata is infinitely customizable and versatile. When imagination fails, there’s nothing quite like a frittata as a last-ditch fail-safe to keep you from ordering pizza when the fridge is full but you just can’t figure out what’s for dinner. When in doubt, it’s frittatas for any meal of the day.
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Become a frittata expert in no time; just read the Q&A below.
Wait, what’s a frittata?
A frittata (from the Italian verb “to fry”) is a thick Italian cousin to a French omelet with a few characteristics all its own. Frittata recipes always start with beaten eggs and are always fried in oil, but other ingredients vary according to the recipe or the ingredients on hand.
How do you make a frittata?
In a frittata, cheese, vegetables and other mix-ins are combined with raw beaten egg and then fried in oil slowly in a pan until almost completely set. The egg dish is then finished off under a broiler or in a hot oven or by being flipped over and fried in the same pan. The eggs in a frittata are cooked all the way through. Total cook time is rarely more than 15 minutes. Unlike omelets, frittatas may be served cold or at room temperature.
Sounds like a quiche?
It does, doesn’t it? Both feature eggs with mix-ins, both can be served at room temp, both frequently appear on a brunch plate in the shape of a wedge. But there’s one key difference — a quiche has a pastry crust and a frittata has no crust at all.
What’s the best way to flip a frittata?
With a plate that is the same diameter as your frying pan, you can easily flip it (with a little derring-do) by putting the plate upside-down on top of the cooking frittata, holding the bottom of the plate and inverting the whole shebang — pan, frittata, and plate — so that you unmold the eggs onto the plate. Then slide the upside down frittata back into the pan to finish cooking. This works best with an oven-safe non-stick pan (or a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet). If you’re feeling squeamish about the maneuver, don’t fret, you can always skip the flip and finish the frittata in a hot oven or under the broiler instead.
How to store frittatas
Leftover pieces of frittata can be eaten a few hours later at room temperature or can be kept in the fridge for a few days. Some sources recommend freezing individual portions of cooked frittata wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, but I’d say buyer beware. Cooked egg that’s been frozen, thawed, and reheated can develop an unpleasant rubbery texture.
How long can you freeze frittatas?
If you insist on freezing your frittata, you can keep them for up to five months. It’s best to freeze them in individual portions (see the muffin-tin minifrittata recipe below for inspiration). When you’re ready to eat, reheat gently in a 350º F oven for 15-20 minutes. That’s about as long as it takes to make a frittata in the first place, though, so …. maybe just make ‘em?
Traditional frittata recipes
The classics are the classics for a reason. If you’re just starting your frittata journey, start here.
Naturally Ella provides a base template for a simple frittata that you can take in any direction with whatever fillings you like. Key ingredients: eight large eggs, Parmesan cheese, and a well-seasoned non-stick cast iron pan that can go from stovetop to oven.
Leeks and gruyere are a perfect fit for a frittata. I love this recipe and the demonstration video which clearly shows how to tell when your frittata is ready to flip and provides helpful visuals for the inverted plate flipping technique.
This Yummly original by Edwina Clark is a winner, flavor-wise and technique, too. She recommends skipping the stovetop frying and going right into the oven with your frittata. No muss, no fuss; no flip, no problem.
If you are looking for a protein-rich way to start (or finish) your day, try this ham and spinach frittata. Dried mustard and cayenne pepper provide a little extra kick.
Start with a leisurely sauté of the thin-sliced zucchini to pull out some of the excess moisture that can otherwise interfere with your frittata-making. Make sure to let the sauteed veg cool a bit before mixing in your eggs. I like to add chives, too.
Take ham and eggs up a level with this prosciutto and artichoke frittata recipe. With the ham arranged on top of egg and artichoke mix and a smattering of fresh arugula added after cooking, this rendition will be a classic of your frittata repertoire in no time.
Leftover potatoes take on new life with a little egg and cheddar cheese. This is the kind of frittata you’ll keep nibbling on throughout the night.
Basic but brilliant. In this vegetable frittata, mushrooms and spinach go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Along with fresh asparagus and tangy goat cheese, this recipe calls for yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes and a judicious smattering of sliced shallots. All together, a symphony of color and flavor in one non-stick skillet.
Muffin tins are the key to success for these single-serving frittatas designed for meal preppers. Pop one out of the freezer when you leave for work and into the toaster upon arrival. Try with feta instead of shredded mozzarella to mix things up.
Easy frittata recipes with creative ingredients
Once you’ve mastered basic technique, take the frittata show on the road with these out-of-the-box fillings.
It’s not exactly non-traditional, but until you’ve had one you may feel skeptical about leftover spaghetti in an omelet. Allow me to dispel your doubts — pasta in a frittata is a sure-fire winner, a sensational combo that works with any leftover pasta.
Featuring cooked shrimp and sprinkled with basil and sun-dried tomatoes, this is a great non-traditional frittata to expand your frittata repertoire.
You can use canned salmon as the recipe suggests, or flake up some leftover cooked salmon (if you get tired of Emily Mariko’s salmon rice). With a little fine-chopped broccoli and some sour cream, this seafood frittata is a savory success.
I dare you to turn up your nose at a cheeseburger frittata. It’s a cheeseburger in frittata form! Genius.
With crumbled paneer cheese and an intense mix of dried spices (including garam masala) this Indian recipe is a superb showcase of the frittata’s versatility.
A “full English” is a breakfast institution. I’m not sure why, but it’s even more fun to eat all the parts of this classic breakfast at once in one rich frittata.
Fry up your crumbled chorizo first and then pour your egg mixture on top for an irresistible crispy egg crust on this creative frittata.
Like frittatas, but different
Italians are not the only ones to add mix-ins to eggs for a satisfying meal. Here are some close relations to the frittata to add to your brunch lineup.
This Spanish dish is a classic of the tapas bar! Don’t skimp on the olive oil as you gently pre-cook potatoes and onion. Of all the frittata-like dishes, this is one that I believe is best eaten at room temp.
A strata is a savory, eggy bread pudding — basically a bread frittata baked in a baking dish. If you’re hosting a brunch, this strata is especially well-suited — assemble ahead, refrigerate, and then pop in the oven as guests arrive.
Gruyere, bacon, crème frâiche, and eggs in a pastry crust? Irresistible.
A vegan spin on the theme of frittata, this recipe subs in chickpea flour for eggs to produce a surprisingly egg-like result.
More egg love
From egg breakfasts to egg hacks, we’ve got plenty more eggy inspiration for you to explore.