Bless the day I learned how to make a frittata.
Not enough people know how to make this dish, which makes me sad because it’s perfect for beginners and college students. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it takes very little time (for the amount of food it gives you), and it’s good for when you’re running late to class or work and you need to jam something in your face as you run out the door. It’s naturally gluten free, which makes some people very happy. Also: it’s an egg dish that keeps at room temperature without spoiling almost immediately. How rare is that?
One of the best things about frittatas is that almost all recipes (at least the ones online) have the same basic formula. It goes like this:
- 6-10 eggs
- Olive oil or butter
- Assorted filling (i.e. herbs, veggies, potatoes, onions, meat)
- Grated cheese (usually parmesan, but not a fast rule)
That’s it. Frugal cooks can go for the minimal approach: eggs, cheese, little salt and pepper (which might come out to somewhere around $2.50 per frittata)*. The ones who worry about getting veggies in their diet can throw things like chard and kale and broccoli in there. People who want a full dish that they can serve to other people go for meat and potatoes. It works for everyone, is what I’m saying.
A note on cheese: parmesan is the most popular recommended choice, but cheddar and mozzarella frittatas are floating around out there. If you’re trying a different cheese, I’d recommend making a more veggie-heavy frittata, maybe with some tomatoes or zucchini in there.
The biggest variable in these recipes is the amount of stuff they recommend you put in the pan. Sometimes it’s six eggs, sometimes it’s ten. Sometimes it’s a quarter cup of cheese, sometimes it’s half. Don’t even get me started on the filling, it fluctuates all over the place.
What matters most in deciding how much stuff you want to put in the frittata is how much the skillet or frying pan can handle, and how easy it is to burn. If there’s too much in the pan then the chance of burning something skyrockets. So a smaller or shallower pan is going to mean less ingredients.
How to Make It
As far as equipment goes, you’ll need:
- A cutting board (optional, only if you have to cut up filling)
- A cheese grater (if you didn’t buy the cheese pre-grated)
- A skillet or frying pan (one that you can stick in the oven without worrying about it)
- A mixing bowl
- A whisk, a spatula
- A knife (to cut the frittata into sections)
- A plate ( if you plan on flipping the frittata over)
As for heat sources, you need:
- A stovetop burner
- An oven
I’m not sure if you can try this in the microwave. Odds are a big skillet won’t fit, and you’d have to make sure the skillet was microwave safe. I am not brave enough to experiment with microwaves and egg dishes, so I just go for the oven.
Here’s how you do it:
- Preheat the oven to 350 or 400 degrees. 350 if it’s a small frittata, 400 if it’s a little bigger.
- Cut up the filling. The bigger it is, the longer it takes to cook. So dice the onions, slice the tomatoes, mince the garlic or herbs, chop up the leafy things, cube the potatoes, whatever’s necessary. (Also, now is a good time to grate the cheese if it’s in a block).
- Fry the filling. Put down a little butter or olive oil and put in everything but the egg, the cheese, and the spices. Chances are the filling cooks slower than the egg and cheese. Be very careful with meat, make sure it’s mostly browned before the eggs are added in. Same goes for onions, for picky eaters who only like onions after they’ve been browned and had their spirits broken.
- In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, grated cheese, salt, and pepper. That way the important stuff is incorporated into the frittata itself.
- Pour in the eggs, swirl them around. Keep an eye on the filling, make sure it’s evenly distributed around the pan. Otherwise all of the good stuff will be on one half of the frittata, and it will be harder to cook everything evenly.
- Here’s the tricky bit, but it makes the process easier and faster. Take the spatula and run it along the edge of the fritatta, then lift the cooked egg off the pan just slightly. Tilt the pan so that the runny uncooked egg on the top of the frittata goes between the cooked egg and the pan. I know it’s confusing. Here are some pictures. Without this step, it’s really hard to make sure that the frittata cooks evenly.
- Once the egg is more or less solid, but still a little wet looking, turn off the stovetop and put it in the oven. (At this stage, I like to take a little extra cheese and sprinkle it on top of the frittata.)
- Cook the frittata for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the top is dry to the touch.
- Take the frittata out of the oven. Leaving it to cool in the frying pan is an option, but some people like to rinse off the spatula and use it to slide the frittata onto a plate. Some people flip it over, it depends on how comfortable the cook is with flipping things and how concerned they are with presentation.
- Cut the frittata disc up into pieces. I like to go with eight, it’s a good portion size.
- If the frittata is not being immediately consumed it needs to be cling-wrapped within like ten minutes of cooling down. Frittatas don’t spoil if you leave them out, at least not in a way that makes you sick, but they can get too dry or too moist really quickly. The result is kind of gross. However, frittatas don’t need to be kept cold, and as long as they’re cling-wrapped they’re fine for a week or so.
- These things go quickly. Some recipes claim that a frittata can serve four people, but unless you have a lot of filling, it doesn’t feel like a lot of food. If it’s being served for other people, include a snack or a side dish, or just make two.
The William’s Sonoma chard-onion recipe is really good, but be careful with the cayenne pepper.
I’ve been looking for a mozzarella-tomato-zucchini recipe to try.
America’s Test Kitchen had a great basic parm-basil frittata recipe in their Family Cookbook, but online the only recipe of theirs that I can find is the Asparagus Ham Gruyere recipe, which is not my favorite.
* Assuming there are six eggs in the recipe and a dozen eggs is about $2, and the cook uses use a half-cup of cheese and cheese is about $3 per 8 ounces, and the salt, pepper, and butter come from packets available at several restaurants and food courts, and can be taken without people noticing. Add half of an onion and you’ll be at $3. Again, all of this is a rough, rough estimate.