How to Make a Frittata, the Ultimate Clean-out-the-Fridge Meal

The classic egg dish is a quick, versatile, and delicious addition to your cooking repertoire
May 7, 2020 Updated: May 7, 2020

I always have time to make a frittata. And so do you. 

It’s a one-pan dish that takes 20 minutes from start to finish—faster than a delivery order—and can serve as breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack.

I was first introduced to frittatas in college as a clever brunch dish, comprised of eggs, cheese, meat, and veggies, quickly mixed together and then thrown into the oven. A decade or so later, I have fallen entirely in love with them. 

They’re quick and versatile, yes, but they’re also the ultimate fridge clean-out meal. I can throw in the herbs that I bought with good intentions but are about to go bad in my fridge. Ditto the cheese scraps, leftover beans, or quarter-cup of roasted veggies that I haven’t yet found a use for but would feel bad throwing out.

This is why frittatas are an Italian nonna staple—those ladies know how to make food that’s healthy, delicious, and practical all at the same time. 

There’s even a Tuscan variation where you take a few slices of leftover bread, soak them in milk, wring them out, then crumble them in. It’s practical, but also transformative: You’ll never taste a more custardy frittata. If turning very unromantic, just-about-stale bread into a delightful, elegant meal isn’t a nonna trick, I don’t know what is. 

Epoch Times Photo
Gather your ingredients: eggs, milk, and all the leftover odds and ends in your fridge. (KucherAV/Shutterstock)

Having these tricks up my sleeve for stretching my food budget makes me a more confident, pragmatic cook. It’s also highly rewarding, beyond the scope of my own kitchen: Finding ways to give old ingredients new life is a kind of magic that I like to think of as respect for the farmers who grew my food and the people who took it through the supply chain all the way to me. Why would I waste something so precious?

Frittatas teach us that everything can be repurposed—even the frittata itself.

For a family of four, a frittata is a perfectly-sized meal. For me, it’s a perfectly-sized meal with plenty of leftovers. 

It’s great reheated in the microwave, and even better served at room temperature with a side salad, as the Italians do. It’s also excellent sliced and stuffed into a sandwich, especially with a bit of aioli and some scallions and herbs.

Here’s how to make it.

Epoch Times Photo
A frittata comes together in 20 minutes, start to finish, in one pan. (Vezzani Photography/Shutterstock)

The Basic Recipe

While you can make a frittata solely on the stovetop, I prefer a stovetop-oven combination for a creamier texture. You’ll need an oven-safe pan, like a cast-iron skillet. 

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 

Next, you’ll need six to eight eggs. Even when it’s just me, I use at least six. You can scale down to a smaller pan and use fewer eggs if you’d like, but you’ll still need enough to cover your ingredients.

Beat the eggs until they’re just combined; if you fluff them up too much beforehand, they’ll rise and then fall in the oven, resulting in a stiffer final texture. Add about a half teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of pepper. If you’re adding lots of saltier ingredients like bacon or blue cheese, use slightly less salt. 

If you have heavy cream on hand, whisk 1/4 cup into the eggs now for extra lightness. If not, you can substitute milk. Or, the Tuscan milk-soaked bread method is excellent: Soak a slice or two of bread, crusts removed, in enough milk to cover for about 10 minutes. Wring dry, then crumble into your mixture. 

Then, you’ll want to stir in around a cup of cheese, shredded or diced, and two or so cups of other add-ins. That can include veggies, beans, meat, or a combination of all of the above. 

This is where you get to flex your culinary creativity, while also repurposing any leftovers. If you want an especially breakfast-y frittata, hash browns, bacon, and cheddar are lovely. If you want a more Italian countryside vibe, roasted tomatoes, garlic, and Parmigiano Reggiano are wonderful.

If you’re using an ingredient that needs to be pre-cooked and isn’t yet, like onions, potatoes, or bacon—anything that you’d want to cook before you ate it plain—you’ll want to cook it in a bit of oil over medium heat in your cast-iron pan. (For something like bacon, you won’t need oil, as the meat is fatty enough that it can just cook in its own fat.) Once it’s done cooking, simply pour your egg mixture directly into the pan. 

If nothing needs to be pre-cooked, heat up two to three tablespoons of butter, ghee, or oil in your pan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, pour in the egg mixture. 

It should stay on the stove for three to five minutes, or until the edges have just started to set.

Then, finish your frittata in the preheated oven for eight to ten minutes, or until it no longer looks wet, and doesn’t jiggle when you give the pan a bit of a shake. Remember that it will continue to cook a bit in the pan after you take it out. 

Let it cool for five to 10 minutes and serve hot, or let it come to room temperature before serving.

Make It Your Way

Here are a few other wonderful ingredient combinations: 

  • Hot sausage, fried sage, cannellini beans
  • Onions, black beans, fried plantains
  • Potatoes, caramelized onions, Gruyere or Comté cheese
  • Fresh tomatoes, ricotta, basil
  • Lentils, bacon, pecorino
  • Sweet potato fries, rosemary, goat cheese
  • Bell peppers, zucchini, marjoram
  • Asparagus, smoked salmon (chopped), goat cheese, chives for garnish

These are all flavor combinations that I’ve come upon by poking around in my fridge. If one sounds especially compelling, you certainly can intentionally prepare some lentils, or even make sweet potato fries. But for me, the charm of a frittata is in giving bits of food already in my fridge a new, delicious home, so I’d recommend just using what you have. 

When you use that approach, it’s low risk, high reward, and also not a big deal if it comes out a little bit flawed. Who cares? You’re a practical Italian grandmother who doesn’t have time to weep over a less-than-perfect frittata!

Christine Clark is a professional food and beverage nerd. She is a Certified Cheese Professional by the American Cheese Society and teaches cheese classes across the United States. Her work has appeared in VinePair, Bon Appetit, Fine Cooking, and Travel + Leisure.