Until fairly recently, I’d never tried making a frittata before. A friend had mentioned making it a few times for a weeknight supper, and in perusing my Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook, I decided to give it a go.
A frittata is, essentially, an Italian-style omelet. As Wikipedia tells us:
The Italian word frittata derives from fritto, the past participle of “to fry” (friggere), and was originally a general term for cooking eggs in a skillet, anywhere on the spectrum from fried egg, through conventional omelette, to an Italian version of the Spanish tortilla de patatas, made with fried potato. Outside Italy, frittata was seen as equivalent to “omelette” until at least the mid-1950s.
As with omelets, frittatas are a great way to use whatever vegetables, cheeses, and/or meats you have on hand. In the last fifty years, “frittata” has become a term for a distinct variation that Delia Smith describes as “Italy’s version of an open-face omelette”.
To me, the key differences between a frittata and French omelet are as follows:
- For the egg mixture of a frittata, you will add in some milk or sour cream; generally speaking, you add no liquid for an omelet — or, perhaps, just a splash of water.
- The fillings of an omelet are sautéed separately and then placed in the omelet before folding it over; with a frittata, you sauté the vegetables, meats, and such in the pan, then pour the egg mixture into that same pan, cooking them all together — that’s one less dish to dirty up!
- An omelet requires constant attention while it’s cooking; once a frittata is on its way, you can leave it alone for 8 or 10 minutes while it finishes up.
While many frittata recipes start off by cooking the eggs on the stove top and then finishing them in the oven or broiler, I followed the instructions in my Betty Crocker Big Red Cookbook for cooking it on the stove top, which is 1) faster (no pre-heating of the oven required) and 2) cooler (it’s summertime and it’s hot and I don’t want to run our oven if I can help it).
As with an omelet, a frittata can be tasty for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or supper. If served along with other dishes — salads and such — you would likely cut it into wedges, rather like a pie. In fact, I suppose you could think of a frittata as being a kind of crustless skillet quiche. I’ve been making hubby and me 4-egg frittatas for breakfast, so I’ve been cutting them in half, serving us the equivalent of a 2-egg omelet.
Frittatas are a great way to use any vegetables, cheeses, and/or meats you have on hand. You can vary the flavor with the filling ingredients and, of course, it’s very easy to make it meatless/vegetarian — the majority of breakfasts I’ve made with frittatas have been meatless.
Do you cook with electric or gas/propane? One of the biggest benefits of cooking on gas/propane is that you have instant heat control — instant on and off — whereas when cooking with electric, there is a heat up and cool down period for the burner. If you’re cooking on electric, my suggestion is that you have a burner pre-heated to the low setting so that it can be ready and waiting for you to place your covered pan on it to finish cooking.
The recipe below is for a 4-egg frittata, which will serve two (as a 2-egg omelet) or 4 (as a wedge served along with a variety of other foods). You can easily adjust the recipe up and down. I cook my 4-egg frittata in a 6″ pan; if I were doing 6 or 8 or 10 eggs, I’d likely use my 10″ pan.
When cooking the frittata on the stove top, you’ll need a well-fitting lid for your pan — this essentially allows it to bake on the stove top instead of the oven.
And what to do you do with the 8 to 10 minutes that your frittata finishes cooking? Well, you can read, listen to music, accomplish some other chore or task — or express some joy and dance the tarantella! 😉 (Go on, take less than three and half minutes from your day — it’ll bring a smile to your face!)
Basic Frittata (Serves 2 to 4; easy to adjust up or down)
- 4 eggs (or 1 cup of egg substitute)
- Couple healthy splashes of milk (about 3 tablespoons) or a dollop or two of reduced-fat sour cream
- Dried or fresh herbs of choice, if desired
- Salt and pepper to taste (I like to use seasoned salt)
- Desired vegetable and/or meat filling(s) — diced potato, sliced mushroom, sliced or diced tomato and/or onion, sliced or cubed zucchini or yellow squash, sliced or diced bell pepper (green, red, yellow, or orange), crumbled/shredded/diced cooked meat (ham, chicken, turkey, sausage)…whatever you have on hand and sounds good to you.
- Desired cheese (optional), shredded, grated, or crumbled (reduced fat cheddar, Parmesan, feta cheese, Swiss cheese — whatever you have on hand and sounds good to you)
- Prepare desired vegetables (slice, dice, chop) in desired quantity in ratio to the number of eggs.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add in a bit of oil or butter/margarine. Sauté vegetables until softened. Add in crumbled/shredded/diced meat, if using.
- Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk or sour cream, herbs if desired, and salt and pepper to taste. (I often also like to add in a couple dashes of Tobasco sauce. This is Texas, and I think it’s a law that we add in some Tobasco to our eggs. 😉 LOL!) Tip: Want extra fluffy, extra light eggs? Separate whites and yolks. Whip whites until fluffy and soft peaks form. Season yolks and whisk/beat together until thick and lemon-colored; then fold into whites along with milk or sour cream.
- Pour egg mixture into skillet, over the vegetables and/or meats. As the egg sets along the edges, lift up with a spatula and gently tilt the pan to allow the uncooked egg to flow under. Continue until eggs are too set to flow under the edges of the omelet.
- Turn burner to low and place lid on pan. (If you cook on electric, please see tip above.) Let cook until done, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove lid and sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Turn off heat (or remove from heat) and cover to allow cheese to melt (two or three more minutes), if desired. Cut into portions and enjoy!