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The word “frittata,”  derives from the Italian verb “friggere,” or “to fry,” and connotes the simplicity of cucina povera—the “humble Italian cuisine”.

Eggs are the main ingredient. With its high protein, easy availability and low-cost, eggs are an essential part of the diet almost everywhere in the world. From China and Southeast Asia to India and Iran, up to Spain, France and Italy, some type of frittata-like dish is prepared. The most distinctive aspect of the Italian frittata as compared to those other egg preparations is the creative and imaginative use of a variety of ingredients.

People sometimes wonder what the difference is between a frittata and an omelette. The main distinction is that the ingredients of an omelette are gently placed into the beaten eggs as they are cooking in the pan. In a frittata, the eggs and ingredients are mixed together, then cooked more slowly. Also, the final shapes are different; an omelette is usually semicircular, where a frittata is round and usually thicker.

There’s an Italian expression: “hai fatto una frittata” which loosely translated means: you’ve made quite a mess—or a sequence of mistakes. That expression no doubt comes from the fact that it often happens that a frittata is made on the spur of the moment: a last-minute decision made when you don’t have the time to go grocery shopping and the refrigerator seems bare. But all those odds and ends and leftovers in your refrigerator can make for a great frittata. In fact, in Italy, sometimes before serving lunch or dinner, a small portion of the meal is purposely put aside for a frittata the next day.

In Italy, cooks make delicious frittatas with leftover pasta (with or without sauce). Also, a frittata is a perfect way to entice children into eating vegetables; it can often be a complete meal in itself. It can be tasty hours later, eaten at room temperature or enjoyed the next day for lunch with a side of arugula salad. For a quick dinner, a frittata can be served along with sautéed greens, salami or various cheeses.

When storing a frittata in the refrigerator, be sure to put it in an airtight plastic container, as water and humidity can ruin the taste. Remember: any greens or veggies you add into the frittata should first be sautéed, in order to eliminate most of their water. As for whether to use butter or extra-virgin olive oil—besides just personal preference, you should also consider which of those tastes marries best with the other ingredients you’re using in the dish.

Basic Ingredients

Use between 6-12 eggs—8 is probably the most common number. Too many eggs can be a bit difficult to handle, especially if the frittata has to be turned over in the pan.
Use about 2 cups of leftover or sautéed vegetables and proteins and 1 cup of shredded cheese.
If you have a broiler, you won’t have to worry about turning over the frittata. Just place the pan under a low flame and remove when the frittata is golden brown.
Use a 10-12” pan with a thick bottom and round borders. A sturdy, non-stick pan makes it easier to remove the frittata from the pan without having to add extra butter or oil.

Vegetables:

Fresh, sautéed or steamed lightly seasoned vegetables
Boiled or roasted potatoes
Fresh greens, such as spinach
Cauliflower
Cabbage
Wild mushrooms
Zucchini
Asparagus
Eggplant
Peppers
Artichokes

Good-quality cheeses:

Melting cheeses—such as Provolone, Mozzarella and Fontina, Parmigiano, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano
Ricotta—for a lighter taste and texture

Cold cuts or air-cured meats:

Sopressata
Salami
Mortadella
Prosciutto
Ham
Cooked Italian sausage

Easy Steps To Making A Frittata

1. Preheat the broiler to high.

2. In a large bowl combine:

  • 2 large egg whites or 1/2 cup of refrigerated egg substitute
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup of milk

Whisk thoroughly.

3. Brush a 9 inch ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat.

4. Saute any uncooked ingredients. Cool for a few minutes.

5. Add 2 cups vegetables and cooked meats to the egg mixture. Reheat skillet.

6. Carefully pour vegetable/egg mixture into the hot pan.

7. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the eggs are partially set. Sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheese on top.

8. Place the pan about 5 inches under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes until the top browns.

If you’re not using leftovers, prepare the ingredients to be added to your eggs by sautéing or roasting them. Put these aside and allow them to cool. Usually, this mixture is poured into the same pan in which you sautéed your vegetables; add a little more olive oil or butter, if needed, before you cook the frittata. Mix the vegetables or other ingredients into your eggs, which should first be salted, peppered and lightly beaten with a fork. Immediately pour the mixture into the hot pan and reduce the heat to a moderate-to-low flame.

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Zucchini, Onion and Pepper Frittata

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise and sliced into half circles
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red and green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup sweet onion; diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons each finely chopped parsley and basil
  • 1 cup shredded mixed Italian cheeses (Mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago)

Directions

Preheat the broiler to high.

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In a large bowl combine the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Brush a 9 inch ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium heat.

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Saute the diced onions, peppers and garlic until soft. Add the zucchini and cook about five minutes.

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Take the pan off the heat and let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes. Fold them into the egg/milk mixture.

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Oil the pan again and heat over medium heat. Pour in the vegetable egg mixture.

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Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the eggs are partially set. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

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Place the pan about 5 inches under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes until the top cooks anf browns slightly

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Here are some other combinations you may like:

Mixed Greens and Pancetta

– 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites

– 1/3 cup milk

– 1 pound fresh mixed baby greens such as spinach, kale or Swiss chard

– 1/2 pound pancetta, diced

– 3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

– 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

– Salt and pepper

Asparagus Frittata

– 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites

– 1/3 cup milk

– 2 cups thinly sliced sautéed asparagus

– 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced

– 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, marjoram or basil

– 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

– Salt and pepper

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions

– 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites

– 1/3 cup milk

– 4 large Italian sausage links, sliced and browned

– 1 1/2 cups diced red and green bell pepper, cooked

–  1/2 cup sweet onion; diced, cooked

– 1 cup Fontina cheese; shredded

– Salt and pepper

Potatoes and Onions

– 6 large eggs plus 2 egg whites

– 1/3 cup milk

– 1 pound small potatoes thinly sliced and sautéed

– 1 large onion, diced and sautéed

– ½ teaspoon dried oregano

– 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

– Salt and pepper

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