The Simple Art Of Cooking: You Say Frittata, I Say Fritada

Frittata with flower garnish
Photo: Omid Tavallai

My mom made fritadas, a Spanish version of the Italian frittata, which she always prepared with feta cheese and diced tomato. Years later I learned how to make frittatas in Italy and was delighted with the versatility of this savory egg dish. Frittatas are not omelets, but more pancake-like, with a stuffing of sorts. To make frittata we incorporated sautéed vegetables into beaten eggs then cooked the mixture in a skillet until a shallow cake was formed, then served in wedges.

What I love about frittatas is their versatility. They can be made with a variety of vegetables, even leftover pasta mixed into beaten eggs, as I’ve had at the hands of Giuliano Bugialli when I brought students to his cooking school in Florence, Italy. Frittatas can be prepared to serve as a luncheon or light supper dish and even as hors d’oeuvres. Over the years I have prepared all manner of frittatas to serve as an appetizer at room temperature. Best of all—they can be prepared up to a day ahead.

I often see recipes for cooking frittatas where the mixture is cooked in a skillet stovetop then transferred to an oven to finish cooking. It is necessary, of course, to have an oven safe skillet. I’ve found the frittata can dry out, losing its moist richness. Frittata is cooked low and slow for several minutes, then allowed to cool a bit, a plate a little larger than the circumference of the skillet is placed over the top of the skillet and carefully inverted onto the plate. The frittata is slid back into the skillet to cook stovetop no more than two to three minutes longer until tender and savory. Let cool to room temperature, cut into wedges and enjoy.

Frittata of Swiss Chard

This typical Italian snack or appetizer is always served at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

1 bunch Swiss chard, about 1 1/2 pounds

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

6 extra-large eggs, beaten

1/4 to 1/3 cup grated Parmesan

10- to 11-inch non-stick skillet

1. Separate the leaves of chard from the stems. Rinse the leaves and discard any bruised portions.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add salt and submerge the leaves. Cover pot, return to the boil and simmer briskly for 3-4 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Chop coarsely.

3. In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and put in the chopped Swiss chard. Season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Stir/sauté for a minute or two. Transfer to a side dish and let cool. Beat eggs in a bowl and stir in the cheese. Add the cool Swiss chard and stir to mix.

4. Place remaining oil in the skillet the Swiss chard cooked in and when hot pour in the egg mixture. Cook over medium heat and when eggs begin to set, tilt the pan slightly and allow any loose egg to run to the edges of the skillet. Shake the pan gently to keep eggs from sticking to the bottom. When the frittata is well detached from the sides of the pan, put a plate, face down over the skillet. Holding the plate firmly, reverse the pan and turn the frittata out.

5. Return skillet to the heat. Carefully slide the frittata back into the pan to cook the other side. Cook about 2 minutes and transfer the frittata to a serving dish. Can be prepared up to one day ahead. Refrigerate, covered as necessary. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

Red Onion and Cheese Frittata

While frittata is typically a snack in Italy, it makes an appropriate brunch dish.

Serves 8 to 10 as appetizer

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 medium red onions, sliced paper-thin

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

7 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup grated Pecorino

1. Heat the oils in a non-stick skillet and sauté the onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 8 to10 minutes. Transfer to a strainer over a bowl to catch the oil. Allow onions to drain well and cool completely. Reserve drained oil.

2. Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until yolks and whites are thoroughly combined. Add the cooled onions, salt, pepper and cheese and stir to mix.

3. Return 2 tablespoons of reserved oil to the skillet onions cooked in and heat gently. When hot, pour in egg mixture. With a large wooden spoon release eggs from the edge of the pan, tilting pan slightly, as they begin to set. This allows some of the uncooked egg mixture to run into the edges.

When eggs are set, and frittata is well-detached from bottom of pan, remove from heat. Wait to cool then put a plate, a little larger than the skillet, face down over the pan. Hold the plate firmly, reverse pan and turn out frittata.

4. Return pan to medium heat with 1 tablespoon reserved oil. Carefully slide frittata into pan to cook other side. After 2 minutes, slide the frittata onto a serving dish. Can be made up to one day ahead. Refrigerate as necessary, or prepare several hours ahead and serve at room temperature. To serve, cut into narrow wedges.

Visit Silvia’s website at to read her blogs and more recipes.

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