The Italians are credited with many foods we eat in America, but one very versatile and delicious dish never seems to get the recognition it deserves in the culinary world. It’s not an omelet or a quiche, but a version of both, and in my opinion, easier to make and absolutely fabulous to eat: the frittata.
Unlike an omelet, the frittata is not folded over. It actually looks more like a quiche, but without the crust and the heavy cream. Think of it as a healthier quiche with all the versatility of an omelet.
The frittata, like many Italian foods, most likely had its beginnings in a kitchen on a farm, where the cook decided to get adventurous with the eggs collected from the hens that day and put them together with any cheeses she had on hand and some fresh herbs and vegetables from her garden.
My Italian grandmother taught me how to cook, and the one underlying message in all her recipes was to always create your menus from the foods you found fresh that day. She went to the market daily, and she had a great vegetable and herb garden. She would never go out of her way to make a recipe requiring special foods and spices, but would cook with what she found at the market, or with what she had fresh at home.
Today, we all live much busier lives. Who has time to head out to the market every day? Not me, and I’m sure not you, either. But we all usually have eggs and some sort of vegetables, cheeses and herbs in the house. If so, you’ve got all you need to make some very tasty frittatas.
Don’t think of these just for a weekend breakfast. They’re a great item on a luncheon buffet table or for dinner along with a nice salad.
Fast Basic Italian Frittatas
For best results you need a non-stick oven-proof skillet. My grandmother used a cast iron skillet, which works quite well, but I’m sure if they had non-stick back then, she certainly would have used it.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (finely diced)
12 large eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
This is the basic recipe. Try some of the variations at the end of the instructions.
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in the skillet over medium high heat; add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients.
2. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, gently lifting the edges of the frittata as they begin to firm, allowing the liquid eggs to flow back under in order to cook.
3. Place in oven and cook for 10-12 minutes until set and lightly browned. Remove skillet from oven and allow frittata to rest for 5 minutes. Slide frittata out onto a serving plate and cut in eight wedges, like a pizza. Serve hot and enjoy!
1. Add a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves and ½ cup shredded gruyere cheese.
2. Add 8 oz. cooked and well drained spinach and ½ cup crumbled feta cheese.
3. Add ½ pound ground Italian sausage and ¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
4. Add ½ cup sliced and sautéed mushrooms and 3 well cooked and chopped slices of bacon.
5. Add 1 cup peeled and sautéed eggplant and ½ cup sliced black olives.
In addition to these, try adding some chopped tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, other cheeses or meats. Come up with some favorite combinations of your own. Consider the basic recipe your canvas and create your own works of art.
Chef’s Note: Many of you may know of “spaghetti pie." It’s a great way to make the frittata a bit more filling. Add a bit of cooked spaghetti to the egg mixture in the pan and then follow the above cooking instructions.