Oh, I can’t sit back and not comment any longer because I have recently seen some abominations masquerading as frittata.
An Italian frittata is a thing of glory, a few ingredients held together by a lacy network of egg and seasonings.
It is not a thick cake of egg, cheese and vegetables or whatnot, baked in a tray in the oven. It is not a pancake, a vegetable slice, an omelette, a pastry-lined quiche wanna-be, nor a layered hotchpotch of whatever the fridge had hidden in its depths. It is not covered with a lid during cooking.
It is not complicated, elaborate, fussy, full of too much stuff, runny, rubbery, bland or anaemic.
When you add the contents of your fridge, or your leftovers, to a pan and swirl in a few eggs and some grated cheese, you are making a fry-up with eggs, not a frittata. Call it that: Freddie’s Best-ever Fry-up or Bella’s Da-Bomb Pan-fry, or something.
If it is a great wodge of stuff as deep as your thumb cooked in a frying pan, it’s a vegetable/egg slice, not a frittata.
If you are making an egg thing in a cake tin or oven dish, call it what it is, an egg and vegetable bake. If it goes in a flan ring or tart dish, call it a flan or a tart. If it is stacked or layered, it’s a stack or something else. Just don’t call it a frittata.
A frittata is a simple concoction of few ingredients – Italian cooking at its best – that perfectly illustrates the ‘less is more’ ethos (that is, you won’t make a recipe taste better by adding more stuff). Fresh eggs, a seasonal ingredient and seasonings are all you need.
A frittata is a thin egg dish which is a cross between a flat sort of omelette and a pancake – it is neither, of course, but the point I want to make is that it should be thin. There should be just enough egg to hold any ingredients together, the edges should be crisp and lacy, and it should be well seasoned.
To reiterate: Anything over 1.5cm (about half an inch) in height is not a frittata. Anything made in a cake tin or roasting dish is not a frittata. It may look great and taste good, but call it something else. And, finally, a frittata should not be a home for leftovers, unless they are of superb quality.
The tips to remember are these:
Use fewer eggs to the amount of other ingredients.
Season with genuine parmesan, or grano padano.
Have the pan and oil hot so that the eggs crisp around the edges as soon as they go in the pan. This helps prevent sticking, as well as provides delicious flavour.
Learn to flip the frittata in the pan (can be dangerous), or turn it out on to a plate and flop it back into the hot pan uncooked side facing down (cooking the top under the grill is easier but there is the risk the frittata will dry out).
Learn to judge when the frittata is just cooked through to avoid it being dry. If the frittata slides a little or feels loose when you gently press the middle of it with a finger it is probably still wet underneath, so it needs longer cooking. If it feels firm, but a little spongey, it is perfect. If it feels firm it is most likely overcooked.
Resist serving a frittata piping hot straight out of the pan as it will have much more flavour if left to cool to room temperature.
Knowing how to make a frittata can get you out of many a mealtime crisis. With few ingredients, and in little time, you can be serving something delicious, and that’s good for you.
Types of frittata
Asparagus – Always better made with skinny asparagus because fat spears add too much moisture to the frittata and cause it to split when slicing. Asparagus Frittata
Spinach – A simple frittata, but good flavour. Blanch spinach, drain, wring out moisture, chop and mix with eggs and cheese. A good grating of fresh nutmeg is key.
Pea, Mint & Ricotta – A bit more of a fancy-pants version. Soften shallot in butter, add blanched peas, then mix in beaten eggs and seasonings. Dollop soft blobs of drained ricotta on top.
Artichoke – Fiddly with fresh artichokes, but can be made with bottled grilled artichokes in oil (do not use artichokes in brine because you will end up with slosh). Prep fresh artichokes in normal way, using just the hearts. Fry off to get colour and flavour, then splash with white wine and cook gently until tender. It’s very nutty tasting. Add fresh marjoram for spicy flavour.
Potato – This was my late Italian mother-in-law Rosa’s specialty. Her potato frittata was legendary back in the day. She’d fry off potatoes until golden and tender, add onions, fry them, then add masses of chopped parsley and garlic, then eggs and cheese. Her secret? A handful of soft breadcrumbs to keep it tender. She is the one who taught me to get the pan and oil hot to get the beautiful crunchy lacy edges. Grazie Mamma. Potato & Basil Frittata and graze again for the rotolo (rolled frittata). Rotolo di Frittata
Leftover BBQ vegetables – Leftover vegetables can make a successful frittata, just keep the quantity in proportion so you don’t end up making a cake. Add masses of basil.
Zucchini – Pan-fry or grill zucchini. Add mint or basil, garlic and black pepper.
Spaghetti – Yes, there is such a thing, and it can be exceptional, but proceed with caution (check our Shared Kitchen recipe) Spaghetti Fritatta
Finally, should mini frittatas be called frittatas, or the Italian word for more than one (the plural) frittate. You decide (because I can’t).
If you want to make an omelette, check it out here Omelette